More than a Spanish teacher

January 23, 2006|By KAREN HANNA


As eighth-graders, Lucienne Kolsun's students could be considered a little too old for the song and dance of elementary school routine. Storytime might be behind them, but on a recent Thursday, they sat on the floor anyway, learning Spanish grammar in the narrow space between two library shelves.

Students at Boonsboro Middle School experience a little bit of both high school and elementary school when they enter Kolsun's room. En español, they perform skits and pantomime the falling of rain as they sing songs about the weather.

Kolsun, who has taught all levels of students at schools in the area, said before class a few weeks ago that she especially enjoys middle schoolers' "goofy" personalities.


The philosophy that gaining language fluency should be fun brought the 37-year teacher recognition at a system-wide fiesta. Kolsun was one of eight finalists for Washington County Public Schools Teacher of the Year last year.

"I landed this position, and I loved it. I was so fortunate that they wanted me," Kolsun said.

Self-effacing as she fumbled with a VCR to show performances of her students, Kolsun focused on technology in her application for the public school system's highest teaching honor. She and her husband, John, a Vietnam War veteran, reached tens of thousands of people through Web sites the couple established to help fellow veterans find resources and records available to them.

Through, the Chambersburg, Pa., couple also tried to connect people devastated by the Gulf Coast hurricanes with help, Kolsun said. A linked Web site,, is devoted to helping people battling post-traumatic stress disorder.

A diminutive woman, Kolsun was a dynamo of energy as she led her classes in song and quizzed their knowledge of Spanish.

As a little girl, Kolsun said she first felt the pull of teaching while poring over Dick and Jane readers with her mother, an immigrant who was active in the resistance during World War II. Thanks in part to her daughter's help, Giovanna Smorto became a U.S. citizen in 1957.

"When she applied for citizenship, we were just so proud of her that she passed. I just remember teaching her how to read and write. It was such a great experience. I guess that was the early beginnings of my becoming a teacher," Kolsun said.

On Jan. 5, sixth-graders sang a song about subject-verb agreement set to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club song in the library before walking into Kolsun's classroom next door and belting out a weather tune.

"I love it," Kolsun mouthed to a visitor. "They're acting goofy, I just love it."

Before class, some eighth-graders said they have been disappointed by the pace of this year's curriculum ? they have traded in skits and fun activities for an emphasis on academics.

Laurin Smith said she would like to perform more skits. Groups in the class this year performed just one Spanish-language conversation, she said.

"I like that the main thing that she wants is for us to understand. I like that," Laurin said.

Tyler Thompson said Kolsun is fairly easygoing in class.

"You can be outgoing, and you can be loud in that class, and she doesn't really yell at you. Like if I did that in English, I'd get in trouble," Tyler said.

With the relationships she's made with students, Kolsun said she's had no desire to leave the profession

"Oh, no, I'll never quit teaching. Oh, no, kid, never. It's too much fun," Kolsun said.

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