Dr. Lara Walker, Ph.D.

World Languages Department Chair
Spanish Teacher
Research Program Advisor
La Vanguardia Moderator
At FSHA Since 2013
Lara Walker Spanish teacher

How did you get interested in teaching a world language? What excites you about teaching a world language?

The ability to communicate and understand another person’s language is such a gift. It opens your world and your possibilities. It is exciting to see students gain comprehension– to be able to read a whole page or even a whole book in Spanish! It is also exciting to students communicate and connect with people.

Additionally, language classes are particularly exciting because they depend on dynamic interaction in the language. I love teaching Spanish because any topic is possible – we get to use the language to acquire the language and to learn about fascinating topics!

Furthermore, teaching language at the high school level is particularly thrilling because we have students who can continue their language-learning journey throughout high school, college and beyond. Plus, we have so much fun!

Why do you think it’s valuable for students to learn different languages other than their primary language?

The ability to understand and communicate in more than one language is life-changing— ask anyone who speaks more than one language, and they will agree. It changes the way you think and experience the world. It allows you to communicate and understand other people and in turn allows them to understand you.

In addition to all the proven cognitive advantages that learning another language offers (and there are many), the human aspect is undeniable. And because language is inextricably linked to identity, it can facilitate cultural understanding and exchange. Furthermore, languages open doors, doors that you might not even know are there to opened.

What has been your proudest professional accomplishment at FSHA?

While at FSHA, I’ve had some wonderful experiences and have been proud of my students’ many accomplishments and our accomplishments as a world language department. I’ve seen my students gain confidence in their Spanish language abilities, and I’ve seen them all pass the AP Spanish Language and Culture exam. I’ve received emails and visits from former students who are now pursuing Spanish in college and some who have graduated and are becoming Spanish teachers. I’ve had students tell me that for the first time they’ve finally been able to have a conversation with their Spanish-speaking grandmother in Spanish and share with me how their grandma cried because they were finally able to understand either other.

In 2015 I was selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities as one of only 16 educators from across the country to be a NEH Summer Scholar in Madrid, which was an amazing experience.

Most recently, I’m most proud of the pedagogical shift to comprehensible input teaching that we’ve made as a department, particularly this past year, as we have prioritized language acquisition and cultural competencies to a new level as we strive to facilitate language learning for everyone. This has been a monumental paradigm shift, and I couldn’t be more proud of our commitment to Second Language Acquisition research and pedagogy. It’s exciting to see such high levels of enthusiasm and proficiency in our classes.

In June 2018 I shared my work on mission-based curriculum design for the language acquisition classroom at the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese conference in Salamanca, Spain.

How do you integrate technology in the classroom?

Technology in the world language classroom is a way to bring the world into the classroom, to bring various Spanish-speaking cultures, both local and global, to our students. It is exciting for my AP Spanish students to learn about students at a university in Peru, who created a billboard that converts humidity into potable water, and access the website, watch their process and learn from them. Or the ability to share with my students the emotion of someone’s first phone call with a parent in Puerto Rico after waiting days after Hurricane María had devastated the island.

We use technology to connect to the world around us, to learn from others, and to express ourselves. We use technology to witness the words and emotion of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina in 1977 as they begged the world to help them find their sons and daughters who had been disappeared by the Argentine government. We use technology to hear and watch the latest song and music video from our favorite Spanish-language rapper or to add our ideas to a trending hashtag in Spanish. We use technology to provide more language input for our students and to help them understand and connect themselves to the world.

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Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy is an all girls' Catholic, Dominican, independent, college-preparatory day and boarding high school in the hills of La Cañada Flintridge. Overlooking Pasadena, FSHA educates girls from Los Angeles, Southern California and around the world for a life of faith, integrity and truth. 

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy

440 St. Katherine Drive
La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011
High School Office: 626-685-8300
Admissions: 626-685-8521

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