High schoolers get taste of other side of podium

Published 2:06 am Saturday, April 19, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Dennis Haimbaugh, a Ring Lardner Middle School English teacher, wanted to host a Spanish class during his Flex Class, but realized he didn't know enough Spanish to pull it off on his own.
That's when he decided it would be a good idea to get some Niles High School Spanish students involved to help him with the teaching.
The aim of the Flex Classes is to give students, as well as teachers, a 45-minute daily block of time to do non-academic activities.
Haimbaugh contacted Pat Van Dalsen, a Niles High School Spanish teacher, and she is now supplying Haimbaugh with the help he needs by letting her second, third and fourth-year Spanish students go over to the middle school to teach Spanish.
Haimbaugh, who appreciates the help he is getting from the high school students, said the Flex system is good.
He said, in addition to learning Spanish, his middle school students, in this instance, also learn just by spending time with the high school students.
And because these are classes the students themselves choose to do, they are likely to be more motivated than for other classes, he said.
Middle school student Brandon Norris, or 'Luis' during Spanish classes, had his own reason for taking Spanish.
He also just enjoyed learning a new language.
Eric Friedline, sitting right next to Norris during class, also said the class is fun.
Friedline, however, also had a more important reason for taking Spanish.
Sally Irons, a Ring Lardner teacher, said all students and teachers at Ring Lardner have Flex classes throughout the year.
Irons said what the students end up doing, usually depends on the individual teacher's comfort zones.
Flex classes go in three week intervals and 15 to 20 students during each interval get to choose what they want to do, she said.
She said the current Flex Class is also a mix of seventh and eighth graders, just because their schedule matched, which has the additional benefit that the eighth graders can act as role-models for the seventh graders.
The high school students helping Haimbaugh teach Spanish, though, had their own reasons for helping out.
Adriana Hernandez, a freshman at Niles High School, said she volunteered to teach Spanish because she wants to help people learn that language.
She said there are many people here who don't know English, but also people who don't know Spanish.
Rafael Garrido, a Brazilian exchange student at Niles High who studied English for four years in his home country Brazil, said he just enjoys learning languages.
Volunteering for him, then, is just another way to interact with people and a chance to speak more English, he said.
He encouraged the middle school students to do their homework, and said it would make it easier for them to learn the language well.