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The Campus Lantern

The Campus Lantern

Señora Dionne has taught at SCH for ten years: Here’s the lesson she’s learned


Having taught at SCH for as long as she can remember, Señora Dionne has learned that the most effective way to teach young people is to approach them with kindness and care.

When a student walks into her classroom on the third floor of the Wissahickon Inn, Señora Dionne greets them with a smile. Before they even take their seat, she’s already asked them how they are doing. Whether it’s a test they just did well on, or a loss they are dealing with, she is there to listen. Unless it’s assessment day, class almost always opens with conversation. The conversation centers around the theme of the unit: education, family, traditions, values, art, and social media are all things talked about in class. The setting is intimate and comfortable, tucked away from the calamity of the high school hallways. It’s quiet, yet there is a constant buzz of welcoming conversation.

I try to teach them something they can take with them in the real world.

— Señora Dionne

At Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Señora Dionne wears many hats. From teaching three classes: Honors Spanish 3, honors Spanish 4, and, AP Spanish 5, coaching girls cross country and advising seniors, she’s an integral part of this community. For many students, Spanish class is intimidating, and the idea of an honors or AP Spanish class is terrifying. As Senior Devin Gibson, an AP Spanish Student said, “When I first came into Señora’s class in 10th grade, I was terrified, I didn’t feel comfortable speaking Spanish, but, Señora Dionne has taught me to have confidence in my Spanish ability, she has encouraged me to push the boundaries of what I thought I was comfortable with. Because of Señora Dionne, Spanish is one of my favorite classes.”

Señora Dionne was twenty-three years old when she first started teaching, and by her own account, she was nervous. “ I was teaching 17-18 year-olds. I never took a formal education class in college. I was a Spanish major. I was hired to my first school because there was and still is a critical shortage of Spanish teachers.” Señora Dionne was terrified, yet she stepped forward with tremendous courage and care to earn her teaching certification. After teaching at a public school in Kensington, Señora Dionne came to SCH.

There’s something special in the way she teaches, she doesn’t just teach grammar. “Learning the language is the top priority but I always want to make my class relevant for my students. Some students may only be taking level 3 because it is a graduation requirement not because they have a desire to learn Spanish. So, at the very least, I try to teach them something they can take with them in the real world.”

Above teaching Spanish, Señora Dionne cares deeply about connecting with her students and building relationships wherein her students feel comfortable being vulnerable and themselves. To Señora Dionne, students are family. “I use the word “family” instead of class and “casa (home) ” instead of classroom. I aspire to make my classroom an inclusive space where everyone feels heard and respected regardless of their different viewpoints. Additionally, when people feel comfortable being themselves they are more willing to take risks and be courageous with the language and their opinions, and for me, this is truly how we grow and learn!”

The biggest lesson Señora Dionne has learned is that connecting with her students is the best way to teach them. As Junior Quinn Seawright, an Honors Spanish 3 student said, “I think that Señora’s class is really special, even though it’s my first year in her class, I feel seen and that helps me learn Spanish.” Señora Dionne pushes the comfort zone of her students, while emotionally holding them, creating a safe environment to explore the idea of learning Spanish thematically, rather than grammatically.

When she looks to the future, Señora Dionne wants to continue teaching and allowing students to think of themselves as competent Spanish speakers.

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About the Contributor
Amelia Baird
Amelia Baird, Staff Writer, Editor
Amelia is a senior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. She is a passionate reader and writer. Outside of school, she can be found spending time with her mom and cats.
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