World Languages teacher Ms. Nieves-Caraballo – known affectionately by many at Lawrence as “Señorita” – has been named “Top Teacher” by Akron Life Magazine and is featured prominently in the publication this month. We’re glad to see Akron Life agrees with what we have thought for years – that we are lucky to have such a talented, caring and spirited instructor!
The following is a Q&A that appears in the magazine. Thank you for all you do, Señorita!
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for four years.
What inspired you to become an educator?
My own learning struggles in middle and high school inspired me to teach students with learning differences. I felt incompetent and dumb when I was in school. Our students at Lawrence have, at some point in their educational experience, felt the same way. I sympathize with their struggle and like to think that my job is to rescue our students’ aspirations, re-establish their belief in themselves, and encourage them to recognize their own greatness as well as the greatness of their peers.
What are three things you want your students to learn from you?
I want my students to learn that there is more than one road to travel as they embark on their journey to reach their educational goals. As a single parent, it took me seven years to obtain a four-year degree. I worked a full-time job and raised my daughter while taking classes. Perseverance and time management skills helped me succeed. Students with distinct learning needs will most likely have to pave their own road in order to achieve their personal goals.
I also want them to learn that one can have fun and refrain from taking oneself too seriously while still being serious about their profession. A friendly smile and some heartfelt laughter go a long way in creating positive relationships in their place of work.
Lastly, I want them to learn how to be kind and compassionate. Every day, I put special emphasis on modeling kindness and compassion. If they leave Lawrence School knowing what kindness looks like and the benefits of treating people with respect, then I have done my part in molding a wonderful young man or woman.
What do you do to keep students engaged in the classroom?
I keep my students engaged with equal doses of good humor, patience and academic rigor. In class, we make time for some fun. I find that once I have them smiling, it is much easier to push them to meet content objectives.
How do you prepare students for long-term goals? Professional goals?
Although I teach the Spanish language, I set aside time for my students to reflect on learning strategies that benefit them and strategies that don’t.
It is imperative for them to learn how to take a step back and look at the big picture. They have to be able to assess unfavorable outcomes and figure out which behaviors need to be changed in order to reach long-term goals. I also emphasize the importance of time management. Whether my students choose to go straight to college or enter the workforce immediately after high school, they will need to be able to meet deadlines, arrive at work or class on time, and maximize their free time.