Highlighting heritage: Take a look into the over-looked Spanish for Heritage Speakers class


Photo by santi

Doering talking to Kehlani Cruz in his classroom.

Santi Leon Torres, Staff Writer

     One year ago, freshman Bryana Diaz walked into Spanish class and set her books down. Diaz mentally prepared herself for the daily torture that was eighth grade Spanish class. Every day she walked into the same room and listened to the same entry-level Spanish being spewed at her and her classmates. She was miles ahead of the other students, but she was stuck with them. It would be three months before the class would be over. To her surprise, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  Freshman native-speaking students attending NHS are offered a spot in the Spanish for Heritage Speakers course, a class designed with the average Hispanic student in mind.

     Noblesville Schools have a Hispanic population of seven percent, making Hispanic students the second largest ethnic group in the district. When these students are faced with the options for world language classes, they may find themselves in a unique predicament. These students already speak two languages, and may not be in the position to learn another one.

     Thomas Doering, a non-native Spanish speaker,  is the only teacher to instruct the Spanish for Heritage Speakers class since it was introduced to NHS four years ago.

     “Heritage class is meant for kids that speak Spanish at home or at least have a lot of Spanish exposure at home,” Doering said.

     According to Doering, because the Heritage Speakers class is offered exclusively to Hispanic students, a sense of community starts to blossom. Their similar, yet diverse backgrounds provide opportunities to bond.

     “There’s definitely a sense of community in [the] class, whether it’s because you’re around people that are like you or because of the things that we do together,” said Doering.

     Some Hispanic students don’t have the luxury of having a strong connection with their culture, but for students like Diaz, the class helps to build a bond with the culture they have grown disconnected from.

     “I like the people in my class because they make it a safe environment to be yourself and express your own opinions and ideas,” Diaz said.

     A sense of community is not the only perk to the Heritage Speakers class, According to students who have already completed the course. They say that there is an abundance of academic advantages that come with taking the course.

     “It helped me challenge what I already knew about Spanish and improve [upon] it. It has given me some of my best memories in high school and really showed me what I was capable of doing if I put in the work,” said Vice President of the Latino Student Union, junior Katy Luna.

     According to Luna, the class helps students build up confidence to speak their native tongue and pursue Spanish-related academic and career goals.

     “Without it I would not have gained the confidence in my Spanish to pursue harder classes that I would have thought were out of my reach. It has also made [it] easier for me to further my knowledge [about] different career options like translator,” Luna said.

     Spanish for Heritage Speakers may be relatively new to NHS, only having existed for a few years, but the students in the course believe it has had a tremendous impact on the Hispanic community of NHS.

     “The community in the class is so fun and a bit chaotic at times but I love it,” said Luna “When it was time to get serious and work we did, but we knew how to have fun.”

     Diaz’s middle school Spanish class days are long over, and she is more than grateful to have a class that teaches her more than just the language.

     “I feel like this class will help me later on to improve my Spanish,” Diaz said “It helps me understand what the culture that I have is and how I can stay connected to it.”