¡Buenos días! 여보세요! क्या हाल है? This is how you say ‘Good morning!’ ‘Hello!’ and ‘How are you?’ in Spanish, Korean, and Punjabi. These are also just a few of the languages Spanish teacher, Melissa Mohler, is fluent in. At Lake Ridge students are required to select a foreign language class as a requirement to graduate, Mohler took that extra step in high school to broadening her horizons and learn Korean, Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu. According to Mohler, her love for languages runs deep and it’s been something she’s grown up enjoying her whole life.
“Growing up, I always had neighbors that spoke different languages, whether it was Hindi and Punjabi or spoke Spanish. I was able to see clips of music and movies when I went to their houses. So I was wondering why I didn’t speak a second language. Then, in seventh grade, I took my first Spanish class. That’s when I thought, ‘Yes! this is what I’ve been waiting for!’ and it just blossomed from there,” Mohler said.
Mohler has been teaching Spanish at Lake Ridge for 7 years, but her love for the language did not originally start off as a college major decision. According to Mohler, her passion elevated from when she was a child as she started taking more Spanish classes.
“The level of Spanish flourished throughout middle school and high school. Then, I went on to study abroad in Costa Rica in college and I knew that I loved Spanish. I also love films and so I would watch different movies in different languages. That led to learning those languages and so I tried to incorporate that into my teachings, because since I’m a lifelong learner, I’m always in the shoes of a student myself. So how can I make something more engaging more fun for me, and then cross that over, bringing it into the classroom,” Mohler stated.
Although learning these languages is helpful for teaching in the classroom, Mohler believes that there is more benefit to learning other languages besides just speaking them. She believes that learning these other languages helps her connect to others around her who don’t often understand English mannerisms and culture.
“I have a broader understanding of where they come from, their different backgrounds, their different customs, and their ways of viewing things according to their culture. Different cultures view things and have different values. When compared to if you speak English, if you speak Spanish, so even the way you present things in language, it might just be ‘Oh, happy birthday,’ in English and then you have a whole paragraph in Spanish. So those types of things, those nuances, my understanding of that helps me understand my students,” Mohler said.
As her love for languages has increased throughout the years, Mohler continues to learn about and connect to other cultures while also learning their language, mannerisms, and nuances. With Mohler’s blossoming love for learning languages, Kayla Baluyot, senior, sees that learning these languages has benefits to others as well.
“It wasn’t like a monotonous thing going through the day. She would have fun teaching us and she’d make the assignments for us fun and we would be more involved. It’s clear that she has a passion for what she does,” Baluyot stated.
With Mohler’s expressing her passion for learning these languages through her teaching, Avram Santiago, senior, believes that is also benefits him in class as he sees firsthand through Mohler the importance of learning other languages and cultures.
“You can tell that she cares about what she teaches, it isn’t just a set of rules, but more so one of her passions and you can tell how has her love of languages improved multicultural club. It’s definitely helped me appreciate different languages because I know how hard it is to learn. I had her in Spanish and learning Spanish was really hard, but it’s made me really appreciate other people’s language and how I have to respect their culture,” Santiago said.
While teaching a foreign language, Mohler has learned about other people’s culture. Not only has this helped her in the classroom, but it has also helped other students engage in the foreign culture they are learning, and through Mohler her students are learning that studying another language and culture can be beneficial for everyone.