by Gabrielle Rivas
As individuals age, learning a second language can be challenging. At Immanuel High School, students have come to realize that learning Spanish can be enjoyable. Previously known as a teacher’s aide at Alta elementary school, Mrs. Joann Brandt, the Spanish teacher on campus, is now spending her twenty-second year teaching at Immanuel High School. When asked what inspired this Immanuel graduate to pursue a teaching career she responded with, “The teachers whom I worked with encouraged me to return to college and get my teaching credential. I still enjoy being in the classroom after all these years as each day continues to brighten my day.” Before becoming a teacher, Mrs. Brandt was determined to learn a foreign language in order to make a prominent impression among the school districts. Even though she took two years of German in High School and knew a few songs in German, she wanted to study a language that would be useful while living in the Central Valley.
As a Caucasian teacher, she wanted the advantage of communicating with immigrants and students who, without a teacher fluent in their language, would have a difficult time adapting in a classroom setting. Initially, she wanted to learn Hmong because of the strong Hmong community in the valley. However, Reedley College only offered Spanish and instead she took all the Spanish courses available. While attending junior college, she continued to be an aide at Alta Elementary School. “That worked out fine because there were lots of children at Alta school who were limited or non-English speakers, and I was able to help them as my Spanish increased,” said Mrs. Brandt. At Alta Elementary School, she was capable of building a connection and communicating with the students regardless of their ethnicity. She applied her Spanish skills in the classroom, where she could have easily disregarded non-English speakers. It is evident Mrs. Brandt had a goal in mind that all instructors should live according to; she wanted her students to reach their fullest potential.
Twenty-two years later, Mrs. Brandt still has the same charisma, creativity, and ambition she had as a teacher’s aide at Alta Elementary School. On a daily basis, she kindheartedly greets students at the door, and then begins class by reading a devotional and comparing it to an experience she once had. Her gentle personality formulates a peaceful and stress free learning environment. While speaking to Makayla Harris about her first year in Spanish, she said, “Mrs. Brandt is encouraging. She helps me with vocabulary and activities. If we mess up, she always comes to us and tells us how to correct our work.” With Mrs. Brandt, students feel loved and appreciated inside the classroom.
Mrs. Brandt unknowingly forced my classmates and I to realize that learning a foreign language can be not only exciting, but furthermore a valuable asset to have while living in California. On several occasions Brandt has students use illustrations, either hand drawn or magazine cut outs in order to visualize what they put into writing. Students this year made Christmas cards, Valentine’s Day cards, recipe books, comic strips, and storyboards. As she displays their projects throughout the classroom, students begin to value their work. Grace MacNeill, a senior at Immanuel High School who had Mrs. Brandt the previous year, said, “Mrs. Brandt made learning Spanish fun including dancing and singing for the class, telling us jokes, and taking us to a Mexican restaurant on the last day of school.” Mrs. Brandt truly enjoys watching her students learn and widen their Spanish vocabulary on a daily basis. Alumni continually return and explain how her instruction prepared them for college and beyond. Mrs. Brandt has succeeded as a teacher due to her caring heart and love for students as they thrive in the classroom.