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Gifted Educators- Sandy Stubblefield

January 10, 2013


stubblefieldpicThis month in our “Gifted Educators” series, we profile Sandy Stubblefield, Spanish teacher at CMS North, Teacher of the Year in 2011 for CMS North, and CISD GEM award winner in 2010. Even before I met up with Mrs. Stubblefield, she gave me my first mini-lesson in Spanish- she signed off on her email with the words Hasta Pronto. And there you had it. My Spanish vocabulary, previously limited to shouting out Hola and Gracias while watching Dora on TV, had doubled. During the course of our 30-minute interview, I picked up another four, maybe five words. And I got it- I understood what it is that makes Mrs. Stubblefield such a great teacher- her ability to make you enjoy (and feel excited about) learning a new and foreign language.

Mrs. Stubblefield graduated cum laude with a double major in home making and Spanish education, from Samford University in Alabama. She started her career teaching home making to middle school students; 7 years ago, when the opportunity to teach Spanish at CMS North presented itself, she took over the reins and has not looked back. Besides teaching Spanish, she has served as the UIL Academic Team Coordinator for North in 2010 and 2011.

It is with great pleasure that I give you Mrs. Sandy Stubblefield, in her own words:

“The first time I ever thought about being a teacher was probably in elementary school. I always liked school. I think that was part of it. When I was in second grade our teacher was out of the room and we had a fire drill. Since she was not there, I took her grade book, told my friend Kathy to close the windows, lined up the class and marched us all out to the playground to line up for the fire drill. The teachers thought it was so adorable, but that is when I think that a seed was planted. In 5th grade, I had a teacher who had the reputation of being so mean and strict, and everyone was scared to death of her, including me. One day in math, she was at the board explaining a concept, and I thought if I was up there, I could explain it that so the kids could get it. Of course I now realize that perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to explain the concept clearly to the students, but it was the first time I remember picturing myself as the teacher.

Growing up, I was one of four kids. I have an older sister, and when I got to high school, I remember her telling me, “Don’t tell anyone you’re my sister. And you cannot take French because I take French.” So, I took Spanish. My first year of Spanish was somewhat of a blur. The following year, in Spanish 2, I had a different teacher – Frances Walker – and everything just clicked. She was a wonderful teacher and I just loved Spanish. I remember thinking, “I so get this!” You have to understand that this was years ago, in Tennessee. I had never tasted a taco, and I did not know a single Hispanic person! Mrs. Walker was clearly a big inspiration in my life.

I knew I wanted to teach. I ended up with a double major in education, in home making and Spanish. My first teaching job was teaching home making to middle school kids in Dallas. This is my 7th year teaching Spanish at North. I love it here. This is where I am supposed to be. And I love middle-school aged kids. They’ll do anything, get up and dance, sing. They are so fun. Part of why I have success is that they are fun.

My teaching is not about me, it is about my students. I love what I teach, but I also love who I teach. Having a good relationship with the kids has always been something big with me. The kids need to feel like they can approach you. A middle school kid will just shut down if you don’t have a good rapport with them. They won’t tell you what they are thinking, and if you don’t know what they are thinking, you cannot adjust your teaching.

Teaching is a team sport. A chain is only as strong as its links. My goal is to be a strong link. I try to include everybody. I realize that they want me to see the invisible ones, the quiet ones. I want them to know that I am always available to them. I tell them “We work together and if you don’t understand something, you need to speak up, because someone else is probably thinking the same thing.” There is a phrase I teach my learners- “Somos un equipo.” It means, “We are a team.” We recite it on the very first days with a loud clap and an “Oooh!” at the end! I even make the parents say it on curriculum night. Teamwork and having a good relationship with every child, help me teach them in an effective way.

I use every tool I come across to enhance my students’ learning. I use technology to transport my students to La Tomatina in Buñol, Spain – the world’s largest tomato fight, and to Mexico for the celebrations of Día de los Muertos and then Las Posadas at Christmastime, and to see grand displays of luminarias in Santa Fe, and to many historic and geographical sites throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

In our multi-cultural society we now have students from many different nations, religions, backgrounds and previous schooling experience. There is a need to address students with varied abilities as well as meeting a variety of learning styles. If we are to educate the “whole” child, we must find ways to teach concepts in a variety of styles.

I hesitate to generalize on a kid, but my GT kids are probably my strongest class academically but sometimes they are the hardest class to teach, in a good way. GT kids are very quick to apply. They are also usually very excitable, they really get into it, they are very competitive, and they are more “out there”. Of course some can be withdrawn, but most love to participate and that is nice in a class where you need it. For higher level thinking there are so many things you need to do. They like challenges, which is good for me. Most GT kids will usually get it and will think of another way to apply it.

I love what I do. There is nothing I would rather do than to teach Spanish 1 to 8th graders at North. I am privileged to share a unique year in their lives. Even before I meet them I tell myself, “I’m going to like them.” I want to enjoy them for that year. And I really do enjoy them. My students will ask me “Why is there an h in Spanish if the h is silent?” I tell the kids “I don’t k-now”. We laugh a lot, which works for me. That is an invaluable tool. I teach an advanced-level high school course to 8th graders. I ask a great deal of them academically, and humor and laughter helps- perhaps when their mouths are wide open with laughter, it gives me an opportunity to poke some learning down their throats!

I know I am going to push them hard and they are going to learn a lot. At the end of every year I am sad to tell them bye. I get attached to them; they’ve been a part of my life every day, and I get a sense that it is going to be different, and my heart is sad.

I want my legacy to the education profession be one of a job well done, a subject well-taught and students who felt loved and valued.”

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