“I fell in love with teaching again when I came to GMS."
The 2016-17 school year marks Sandra Lee’s fourteenth year of teaching Spanish at Greensboro Montessori School. For seven of those years she has been leading our 8th graders on their capstone experience end-of-year field trip to Costa Rica where they engage in a tremendous cultural exchange program with our sister school, the Summit Montessori School in San José. Through Sandra's stewardship, our Middle School students benefit from the unique opportunity to experience life immersed in a different culture, testing not only their language abilities but their capacity for adaptation, selflessness and citizenship.
While in Costa Rica, our students are paired with a host family and develop friendships with the middle school students at Summit Montessori School. Those formative relationships make lasting impressions on our students and help give them a deeper perspective of their role and responsibility as a global citizen. Sandra says, “What I love most about this program is that our students get to experience a very different reality and way of life when they are there. Plus, learning language has a lot to do with necessity, and while our students are in Costa Rica they may be staying with a host family that has very limited English. In those situations, their Spanish is essential.”
Sandra has taught students of all ages at Greensboro Montessori School. When she first started teaching to GMS in 2003, she taught Spanish in the Primary program. “I have never been more creative than when I taught at the Primary level because for children at that age, you have to be ready to adapt your lesson in a moment’s notice.” After a few years in Primary, she moved up to teach Spanish in Lower Elementary and then Upper Elementary. Now she is a leader and mentor for our team of Spanish faculty, including Susana D’Ruiz and Rossana Aranda, and thoroughly enjoys collaborating with her other colleagues while teaching in Upper Elementary and Middle School.
“One of the reasons I have loved working with Middle School is because of the strong relationships we end up having with our alumni. My former students often come back and tell me how much they are using what they learned in my classes. I know many GMS alumni who took Spanish 4 or Spanish 5 classes while they were in high school and their fluency is amazing."
Regarding the Spanish curriculum at GMS, Sandra says “since there is no specialized Montessori training for Spanish language teachers, over the years I have developed a hybrid Spanish curriculum that incorporates Montessori lessons together with more traditional teaching methods. I weave together web-based learning through a customizable web program called Conjugemos, textbook learning through Realidades (a traditional source also used in Guilford County Schools), and coordinated lessons with my Montessori colleagues. For instance, in Upper Elementary I work in tandem with the lead teachers to present Spanish lessons in geography and grammar right after the students have had the same lesson in English. It creates a greater context for their learning and makes it more relevant for the kids.”
Sandra holds a bachelor’s degree in English education from Universidad de Talca, Chile and always knew that she wanted to be a foreign language teacher. It is a funny coincidence that instead of teaching English to her fellow Chileans, now she helps the students of GMS immerse themselves in the language and culture of her home. But Sandra wasn’t always a Spanish language teacher. When she first moved to the United States in 1985, she worked as a technical translator and senior editor for AT&T and Lucent Technologies. How did she find GMS? Well, soon after her oldest daughter Isabella was born, Sandra began to explore preschool programs and landed at GMS at the recommendation of her extended family members whose children were already enrolled. Isabella enrolled in our Toddler program in 1998 and that was the beginning of Sandra’s journey with GMS. “I fell in love with teaching when I came to GMS,” says Sandra.
In a recent interview Sandra described GMS as a place that feels just like home. “The kids and my colleagues make me feel so good about myself and my work. The school has been a tremendous emotional support for me over the years and I really love teaching here. Everywhere I go in Greensboro, I see someone I know from my GMS family.”