by Cody Coats
Although it hasn’t been long since the beginning of school, it is quite easy to see that Christian Bergthold, known by his students as Mr. B, is a welcomed asset to the community of Immanuel High School.
Recently returning to his hometown of Reedley after a year of teaching English in Mexico, Christian has started the school year as the new Spanish teacher. As he puts it, he has had an interest in teaching since an early point in his life, but just didn’t know what to teach at first. Hoping to incorporate his interest of other cultures with his desire to teach, he majored in Intercultural Studies at Fresno Pacific University.
While at FPU, he had the chance to study abroad in Costa Rica. “I wanted to teach overseas but didn’t originally want to go to Latin America,” shared Christian. “Being in Costa Rica made me fall in love again with the Latin American culture. That is what drew me to Mexico.” Teaching in Mexico seems to have been a great benefit for Christian. He gained not only experience as a teacher, but also solidified his understanding of Spanish. “I never told people that I was fluent, I would just say I was very good at Spanish; I speak it well. But after living in Mexico I felt like I could finally say I was fluent in the language.”
One of his most notable focuses is an emphasis on grammar. “I am really passionate about the grammar: the structure of the language.” It is easy to see, and hear, that Christian has the excitement to teach. From down the hall, the energized recitation of Spanish vocabulary can be clearly heard. For him, voicing the grammar is a way to make speaking Spanish a familiar and enjoyable thing for his students. “To me a foreign language class should be noisy. There should be a lot of intercommunication between students. I can teach them stuff, but sometimes they can teach each other even better than I can.” Though a louder class would normally be quieted, it is evident that concepts are being learned through the act of speaking. “I enjoy hearing the conversation,” expressed Mimi Kriegbaum, who teaches English in a neighboring classroom. “I know that the students are learning [from it].”
One highlight of his job is seeing the minds of his students come alive. “The best thing for me is seeing a student who is struggling, actually get it; where it clicks. That, and also seeing students get really excited about learning a language.”
Christian’s passion for teaching is what inspires him to reach out to his students. “You can be the guy who goes out and does stuff, but if you can inspire other people to do that… I have the potential every year of inspiring 150 students to get better at Spanish. Even if only a fourth of them went out and used it, that is still incredible. I want my students to get to the point where they are fully using the language and wanting to practice it. That’s what makes me go.”
It is evident that Christian has a long-lasting willpower to teach and will continue leading students through the integration of culture in the classroom.