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High school student teaches Spanish to elders

October 01, 1998

High school student teaches spanishBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

by: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




WAYNESBORO, Pa. - At age 15, Heather Baker is 60 years younger than her youngest student.

Baker, a sophomore at Waynesboro Area Senior High School, is a second-year Spanish student.

On Thursday she was teaching the language to four senior citizens in the local senior activities center.

Baker started her lesson with simple exercises. "We're going to play this by ear," she said.

She asked each student his or her name in Spanish: "Como se llama?" Each answered in Spanish, "Me llamo ..."

She led them through a series of simple phrases, numbers, the months of the year and the 30-letter Spanish alphabet before ending the lesson by tensing verbs.

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"She did great," said Paul Sullivan, the most fluent of Baker's students. "She helped us as much as we needed."

Sullivan said Baker also seemed to sense when to let them go at their own pace. "She didn't lead us by the nose," he said.

Baker's other students Thursday were John Sauder, 78, Helen Bryson, 74, and Eva Daywalt, 75.

Sullivan said he's taking the class to keep up his Spanish skills.

Bryson said she teaches literacy classes and many of her students speak Spanish only. "I thought I could use this," she said.

"I like the language," Daywalt said.

"I'm here for the fun of it," Sauder said.

Baker said she was a bit uptight about standing up in front of a group of adults.

"I was a little nervous. The hardest thing was just getting up to talk to them, but I do that a lot in my job as a waitress," she said.

Betsy Mummert, Baker's Spanish teacher, sat in the rear and watched as she conducted the class.

"It was hard for her to be the first one and to be here by herself," Mummert said.

She said about 60 Spanish students signed up to teach the class. After this week they will teach in groups of three.

"Heather was alone. She was on the spot, a guinea pig," Mummert said.

"Everyone says Spanish is the easiest foreign language to learn, but they find out differently when they try to learn it," Mummert said.

The classes will be held every Thursday at the center for the rest of the year, Mummert said.

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