Nanuet Knights Welcome Back an Old Friend

Melanie Guaman

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We, students and staff alike, are proud to welcome Mrs. Rachel Friedman as the newest addition to the foreign language department at Nanuet Senior High School for the 2018-2019 school year. Having taught Spanish for about ten years, Mrs. Friedman shares her experience and insight into what it takes to teach her students how to grasp a language, and what she has learned along the way.

Although she is a new face to many in the district this year, this is not the first time Mrs. Friedman has stepped through Nanuet doors. Ten years prior, the Spanish teacher got a feel for what it meant to be a part of the Knights’ community while working some time as a leave replacement.

“It was my first job teaching, and I loved it,” she recounted. “I worked in Nanuet for a couple of years and remember when I left, I left with this awesome feeling”. She explains how the community and the people at Nanuet shaped her experience, making her feel supported in her teaching endeavors at all times. She also enjoyed the company of her Knights students.

After spending these two years in Nanuet, she went to work at a school in New Jersey for six years, enjoying her experience there too.

“But I always said if there is ever a job opening in Nanuet, I would really like the opportunity to come back and work here.”

And here she is today.

Mrs. Friedman began her studies at the University of Buffalo, having the opportunity to major in both history and Spanish. After receiving her two bachelor’s degrees, she went on to study at Marist College for her formal Masters in Education. Her experience in the field of language spans around the globe; she has had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain for a semester and has put her skills to the test when traveling to Peru, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

It was impossible to miss the camaraderie that radiates off her. This is probably the result of her involvement in many team activities,  such as the track team,  the crew ( rowing) team, other team sports, and the National Honors Society. She continues to live by the motto- “the more involved, the better”.

When teaching her students, she uses a variety of approaches to engage her students as efficiently as possible. Of course, she stresses the importance of the English language in modeling the grammar and writing techniques and punctuation to serve as the bolster to any language. Yet, what is most notable in her teaching style is the stress on history she incorporates any chance she gets.

She said, “You need to understand the cultures that you are teaching (your students). Spanish is more than just a language.” To Mrs. Friedman, the histories and cultures of the different countries that have Spanish as their main dialect heavily impact their vocabulary and use of unique phrases. Knowing these histories and cultures helps students become knowledgeable about what happens in the world around them.

Her ultimate goal is for her students to speak and communicate with one another in Spanish. This would show that she did a great job as their teacher, following the curriculum to the end. The greatest reward she gets from teaching, however, is the contribution she makes to the complexity of the subjects they can talk about. She wants them to go out on their own and after what they want, using Spanish to their advantage. She wants them to express their success and passion and other things outside of what they are taught in the classroom. Whether a student achieves this early on or later, for a student to be motivated and responsible for wanting to learn the language would be the biggest reward for any teacher.

Ms. Friedman said that, as an instructor, the obstacles and learning opportunities begin with the interview and searching for job positions. Once you get the chance, then comes working with different personalities, whether it be with students, colleagues, or the employer; you have to learn how to hone your skills and use them to your advantage.

A more obvious roadblock for an instructor would arise in the moment of a lesson. For instance, a lesson may not go in the direction you planned it to or students aren’t grasping what you are teaching them; it’s in these instances where you have to think on your feet and figure out how to re-explain it and what to do next time.

And, Ms. Friedman said, reflecting on these experiences makes you a better teacher and person overall.

“You have to be patient and that is something I work on every day. You have to be understanding and you have to really care about not just what you are teaching, but the people that are sitting in the seats, and how to make them successful, even if it’s a small thing. That is the most important advice for a teacher in any field. ”

So as soon as a job position opened up, she sought after it, ready to leave her old school. Now she is back in Nanuet and the community is stronger than ever.

“And I like being a part of that.”

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