Sonrisas Feature Teacher – Irene QuinonezBrooks
Meet Irene Quinonez
Irene holds both a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degree in education from Arizona State University with a minor in Spanish. After a thirty-year career as a teacher and curriculum specialist in the Mesa Unified School District, she retired and went into the mortgage business for nine years. Irene was approached by the principal at Christ the King Catholic School in Mesa, Arizona about teaching Spanish, and she accepted. She is in her sixth year of teaching there, and she teaches eleven different classes in grades K-8. When Irene started teaching Spanish, she noted that the school did not have any teaching materials that were appropriate for young children. She knew they needed something exciting, special, and engaging.
How Sonrisas Spanish is Effective for Irene
The Sonrisas Spanish curriculum helped reaffirm for Irene that she was going in the right direction and teaching what children needed to be taught. Because of the time frame of her classes, Irene uses the teacher’s manual to pick and choose activities that work well with her classes. She loves using the songs in her classes and appreciates how they keep her students engaged. Her students love the songs on the Sonrisas CD so much that they often sing them completely on their own. Irene tells the story of the kindergarten teacher taking her children on a field trip to the Phoenix Zoo. When the children saw the elephants, they began singing the song “Un elefante” (track #7 on the Sonrisas CD) to the elephants in their enclosure! Needless to say, the kindergarten teacher as well as visitors were surprised to hear the children singing in Spanish. Irene also utilizes the storybooks not just with her younger students, but across the grade levels.
Teaching Tips from Irene
Irene’s advice to teachers is to start slowly and realize that you do not have to teach your students everything right away. It is more important to take the time to determine what your students’ needs are and then do what you have to do to meet those needs. In regard to native speakers in Spanish class, Irene believes that we need to assess where they are and move forward from there. She recognizes that while many of them know how to speak Spanish, they do not know how to read or write Spanish, and they have much to gain from Spanish class.
Irene also offers this idea for teaching colors. Cover some food boxes and cans with colored paper. Then you can do a variety of the following:
- Put the items in a grocery bag. Unpack the grocery bag, one at a time, and ask children to give you the name of the color.
- Set out the colored items. Select one student to choose an item. Let that child say the name of the color in English. Another child then gives the Spanish word for that color.
- Have students pack up the grocery bag. As they put each item in the bag, have them say the name of the color in Spanish.
What Inspires Irene
Irene is inspired by being with children and seeing the love they have for learning. She enjoys hearing stories from her students about them being in their community—for example in a restaurant—and then telling her that they heard Spanish and were able to understand it. She is also rewarded by the love her students show her and the opportunity to give it back.
Sonrisas Feature Teacher celebrates teachers who are using the Sonrisas Spanish Curriculum and tells their stories. If you know someone who would be a good candidate for a Sonrisas Feature Teacher, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.