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Spanish teacher takes on graduate school

Beloved Senor P. balances admin courses and teaching

By Charles Self

Señor Peterson leads activities in his Spanish I class, where freshmen have a chance to start four years of Spanish.
Photo By: Semay Alazar

In the 2017-18 school year, RAHS is lending their more experienced Spanish teacher to graduate school as William Peterson begins taking courses to become a certified administrator. Being a teacher requires a lot of time, but balancing that with being a student is more challenging.

“Senor P.” is a well known teacher around the school for his passion for teaching and learning. He has begun taking classes in Tacoma.

“My program is through Pacific Lutheran University,” said Peterson. “It is a one year intensive study about how to run schools, how to manage schools, and how to be a really awesome leader for the parents, the staff, and the students of the school.”

Peterson has positive thoughts on Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) and appreciates their prominent administrative track.

“I chose PLU because they have reputation. They have a good reputation in the community. I chose it because it is one year instead of two or three years,” said Peterson. “I just like to go at things intensely, it’s like my personality, like I like to go at things intensely and get things done get work done.”

Going at things intensely is easier when the school is close to home, both physically and in your heart.

“It is also manageable in terms of distance. I live more south, so also distance and where I live; that makes sense,” said Peterson,” and also they have the former superintendent of the whole State of Washington; Terry Bergeson is their dean of students.”

Adding to the convenience of a manageable distance, the class sizes are small.

“The classes are really small,” said Peterson. “There are only 15 students in my class. I like that.”

The class size at PLU nurtures to the potential of their students, such as Peterson, who is then enabled to grow and build his knowledge.

“I am interested in growing as an educator,” said Peterson. “I am interested in growing as a professional. There is a lot of that I can do in the Spanish classroom in high school with 150 students, but at the same time there is only so much I can do in just a Spanish classroom in just one high school.”

While Peterson may not be able to do everything he wants to in a Spanish classroom, he can start to practice taking on a larger student body by working at internships at RAHS and at Hilltop Elementary School.

“Part of my internship this year is at the elementary school, Hilltop,” said Peterson. “It’s a bilingual elementary school  so all of the kids there in kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, they are all leaning science and math in Spanish.”

As a Spanish teacher, Peterson finds these schools to bring a different teaching style to the table, as well as a chance to progress as a Spanish speaking educator.

“So for me, it is not that I just want to become a leader or administrator. I don’t want to stop Spanish and that is one of the most important things,” said Peterson. “This for me is not in any way stopping Spanish. This is now continuing Spanish and now maximizing it and expanding it to grades one through grade six at an elementary school, every grade, instead of just one high school classroom grades 9 through 12.”

This new school environment will make the process of flourishing as an educationalist a more simple progression.

“I want to grow as an educator,” said Peterson, “to learn more about elementaries, high schools, [and] other schools. I want to continue Spanish instruction and now help others in other schools teach Spanish effectively.”

Staying put as a teacher cannot always lead to growth in a certain position. Peterson looks forward to a drastic change in his career as he evolves as an educator.

“I always like a constant challenge. I do not ever want to stagnate and be ‘oh he is the same teacher he has always been,’ I don’t want that,” said Peterson. “I always want to be improving as a teacher, [for example] I understand Charlie Self when he was in first grade, second grade, and when he was in eighth grade, that will help me teach Charlie Self and support him better when he is my tenth grader.”

By understanding students individually, an administrator is able to knit the school’s community closer together. Being a teacher by day and student by night eats away at free time.

“Well just ask a junior how they are balancing 4 or 5 AP classes. You know it is probably the same response,” said Peterson, “tremendous organization, a lot of planning, a lot of saying no to the fiestas, to the social life, and a very supportive family.”

In many learning environments, having an encouraging family is one of the crucial building blocks for success.

“So for you guys you are like ‘oh my parents support me.’ I say ‘oh my wife really supports me,’ so that is really helpful,” said Peterson. “I just have to be really careful with not putting too much on my plate in terms to saying yes to that extra thing professionally or that extra thing socially.”

Subduing a social life while attempting to balance workloads tends to decrease time for other pastimes.

“I spend most of my weekends on Saturdays and Sundays working, working on homework, or working on grading your guy’s tests as you know,” said Peterson. “In past years it has been just ‘oh I have to grade the Spanish I test’ but this year it is ‘I have to do my homework as a student and I have to grade tests and I have to prepare projects for my internships.’”

There are several advantages to being occupied for the majority of the time.

“I am not really watching much TV this year,” said Peterson. “It is amazing how much you can get done when you do not watch much TV. I do not mean that as an insult to anyone, but if you do not watch TV for a couple hours a day it is amazing how much you can get done.”

While attending classes is one aspect of Petersons learning, working in the field is another. Peterson is interning both at Hilltop Elementary and RAHS.

“It is supposed to be just one internship,” said Peterson. “Usually you just do the internship where you are a teacher at. That would be for me oh I do the internship at RAHS.”

Working as an administrative intern at RAHS involves working with current administrators to help better the school.

“It means going to work with Mr. Holloway and Mrs. Tipton a lot,” said Peterson. “So planning with them, staff trainings. Going down working with them in their offices as well as planning staff trainings.”

While working with current administrators is part of the internship, working with other staff and helping them to advance and build their education is part of it as well. Friday meetings are some of the items Peterson is helping out with for his internship.

“Planning and managing those teams,” said Peterson, ”what are we going to talk about this day, how does this help our students?”

Planning for staff meetings is an important task as it allows for the staff to work in a more cohesive manner as well as enabling them to speak on individual students. Interning helps Peterson along the process of becoming an administrator by giving him real world experience and first hand knowledge that one day he will be able to bring into a school.

“I chose to intern at Hilltop, I chose to because my big passion is learning, but learning with Spanish,” said Peterson. “You see that here, you have been hearing speak about how I want to take that to the next level, which is taking that passion across an entire school.”

Interning at Hilltop helps Peterson to continue to develop his passion for the language of Spanish.

“That is why I chose Hilltop, so I can have the Spanish connection while being an administrator.

There is a need in Highline School District,” said Peterson. “We have six dual language schools. This means K-6, half of the day is in Spanish and half of the day is in English. That is what a dual language school is.”

The half and half schedule provides the students a unique learning experience.

“This is fascinating to me, to see five-year-old kindergartners up to 11-12-year-old sixth graders who have half of the day from 9am to 12pm in Spanish, go to recess, come back and have the rest of the day in English,” said Peterson.

While the schools are fascinating they are also necessary in an area of the city where there is a larger population of Hispanic students coming from a Spanish speaking background.

“Highline school district has a big need because they have six dual-language schools and a lot of students,” said Peterson. “At those schools more than 50% of students are hispanic, meaning more than 50% of the students already speak Spanish or their families speak Spanish.”

Having that large of a population of Spanish speaking individuals leads to a need for Spanish speaking educators, but also administrators where there is a distinct lack.

“I have noticed that the leaders of those schools do not speak Spanish. I know that Highline School District wants the principals to speak Spanish,” said Peterson,” because if the principals and the leaders speak Spanish then that creates this great and this big positive influence across the teachers, the families, and all the students.”

Speaking Spanish with the school community helps to build and nurture bonds between the school and families.

“If the principal speaks Spanish,” said Peterson,” and really cares about the hispanic population, and has a background in teaching the language, and that is my dream right, that is what I want to do, then that helps those schools be more successful and it helps so that the teachers, the students, and the principals speak Spanish and are all for and in favor of this dual language school.”

A passion for the school community builds a powerful leader

“It is a combination of the fact that I have a passion for Spanish, and for the people that speak Spanish and for teaching Spanish to those that do not speak it yet,” said Peterson, “and then also how the district has a need for new administrators who actually speak Spanish instead of monolingual principals.”

A demand prompts a need. Peterson is the answer to this demand.

“I think the future is language. I think the future is language. Many years ago these six dual language schools did not exist,” said Peterson. “Now six out of eighteen schools are dual-language schools. We have more spanish, this year we have a new spanish teacher, we have more Spanish in this school. You guys can see it, look around you. The different shops, the different messages, the different commercials.”

As the futures path is set, the world begins to evolve around new noticable changes.

“‘Despacito’ is a song in Spanish, that was number one in the United States, number one on the Billboard charts. It was not some other artist in English,” said Peterson. “It was a Spanish song. What does that mean? It means that we are progressing and going towards more and more Spanish.”

The way students are being educated is going through a major shift in the United States.

“Bilingual education with Spanish is the future of education,” said Peterson.

Tremain Holloway, RAHS’ Vice Principal, went through a similar process as he became an administrator. He recognized that he wanted to do more in the community but couldn’t at his current level.

“I discovered going into my fourth year of teaching that I wanted to affect the educational world in a more macro level,” said Holloway. “By doing that I knew in order to do that I needed to go a little bit higher than just in the classroom.”

Holloway began his journey by looking into schools that would help him achieve what he wanted, not what a generalized group supposedly wanted.

“I started thinking about graduate school,” said Holloway, “and more specifically places that could shape and mold to the leader that I knew I wanted to become.”

A helpful trait that some schools have is the ability to form around a student’s schedule. This is beneficial in cases where a student may also be teaching five periods a day worth of classes.

“There are some programs out there where you can go part-time,” said Holloway. “I know Mrs. Tipton, she did a program where she she was working as a teacher, still working in the profession, and still going to school.”

Becoming an administrator is a lengthy but well worthwhile process that will ultimately allow for  the improvement of the way that schools are ran. There is no set curriculum for exactly how an administrator is to run their school so it requires increased leadership and awareness.

“As an admin there is no real predicted method or way to do things because everyone has their own style of leadership, and it all depends on the mentor that you have as well,” said Holloway. “Cause all leaders are different, they are cultivated in different ways.”

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