Meet Salem

Salem Majors and year of graduation: Elementary Education/Language Arts, Spanish Minor; 2011

Hometown: Marquette, MI

Current city: Green Bay, WI

Life as a bilingual teacher 

  1. What is your typical teaching day like? 

I work from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. I teach all of the core subjects (Science, Social Studies, Literacy, and Math). I teach 90 minutes of math every morning in Spanish. We also have a 3 hour literacy block in the afternoons that is taught in English. Science is taught Monday and Wednesday in English, and we will start Social Studies next month in English. All specials (gym, music, and art) are taught in English. During the day I have students being pulled out for all kinds of different programs (Title I, math or literacy intervention, ESL, gifted and talented, speech, special ed, physical and occupational therapy, and guidance). There is a lot of traffic through my room all day and I very rarely have my whole class in my room at once.

What is most challenging about teaching?  What is most rewarding?

The most challenging thing for me is teaching through all of the distractions in my room and keeping my students on task. In the afternoon I have teachers coming to get students every 15 minutes. This creates a distraction for the other students and I have to get them back on track until the next person comes in 15 minutes.

The most rewarding thing about teaching is when I see my students understand a concept or use a trick I taught them in class. I love seeing that my teaching has made an impact on them.

How did you end up in your current position?

For one of my classes we took a trip to Danz Elementary in Green Bay. I loved seeing their bilingual program and decided to try for a job there. I applied for an English-speaking elementary job in Green Bay because that was the one I was certified to teach. I got an email about a month later from someone in the ESL/Bilingual program in Green Bay asking if I had ever thought about teaching in a bilingual classroom. Since I am not certified as a bilingual teacher I had to take a fluency test after my interview. The test took almost 3 hours, but I passed and now I’m here teaching 3rd grade.

Do you have any advice for graduates seeking employment as a teacher?

Apply for everything. I applied for elementary jobs as well as art, music, and gym positions. Even if you get a job that you didn’t expect or aren’t that excited about, you still get that experience and you may find out that you really like that position.

A look back at NMU

Languages studied at NMU: Spanish

Why did you choose to study those languages?

I started studying Spanish in 8th grade. I really enjoyed my classes and for me I was able to understand it easily. I wasn’t planning on minoring in Spanish, but I took a basic Spanish class to get some credits and remembered how much I liked it.

When did you begin your language education?

I started in 7th grade with a general language class and got chosen for our school’s one 8th grade Spanish class.

What do you remember about your NMU language classes?

My classes were great! The professors were very animated and knowledgeable. You could tell that they loved their jobs! A lot of them brought humor into the classroom, too, which made class much more fun to be in.

While still an NMU student, where did you find opportunities to speak the language you were learning outside of the classroom?

I met a few people from Mexico and Spain that I was able to speak with. I also taught my husband a little Spanish and would talk with him.

Did you study abroad when you were a student? How did the experience enhance your studies?

I went on a faculty led study abroad with Professor Orf to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was the first Spanish-speaking country I traveled to. I loved having a real-life experience where I had to speak Spanish. In Marquette it is easy to stop speaking Spanish once you are out of class, but when you are in Buenos Aires, you have to speak Spanish all the time!

How have the languages you studied at NMU enriched or enhanced your life, whether personally, academically, or professionally? 

Without the foreign language program I never would have been able to go to Buenos Aires, Argentina or student teach and work in Antigua, Guatemala. I also wouldn’t have my job as a bilingual teacher.

What was student teaching in Guatemala like?

I originally wanted to go back to Argentina, but because of the way the school year works, I ended up in Guatemala. It was my first experience teaching English to native Spanish speakers and I loved it! It helped me to prepare for the job I have now.

Speaking of student teaching, do you have any advice for students seeking employment abroad? 

Look at bilingual schools or American schools in the country you want to live in. The study abroad office at NMU has a lot of great resources. Also, even if you don’t find a job in your first-choice country, try a different place. I never thought I would live in Guatemala!