For Warren County Schools’ 2019-20 Teacher of the Year Maria Daal, teaching fourth- and fifth-grade students in Northside K-8 School’s Spanish language immersion program means much more than teaching them the Spanish language. She strives to use her experiences to introduce a world of learning to the young boys and girls.
Warrenton resident Daal grew up in a small town in Venezuela and completed her college education in Maracay, earned a degree in English with national certification to teach pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. She taught middle and high school in Venezuela before arriving at Northside in 2015 through what was known then as the Visiting International Faculty program and is now Participate.
Daal brought with her a love of travel. She has visited Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, France, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, gathering memories of cultural experiences to share with her students to show that language involves much more than words on a page or computer screen.
“I want (students) to learn different cultures, languages and aspects (of the world),” she said.
Daal grew up as the daughter of a teacher and with close relatives who encouraged her to follow her dreams. That is the attitude she wants to cultivate in her students’ minds. Daal believes that teaching the Spanish language and sharing the culture of Hispanic countries will encourage the boys and girls to explore life and learning beyond this area.
“This shows students that they should go to college and experience other things,” she said. “Knowing Spanish opens so many doors.”
As a Spanish language immersion program teacher, Daal has taught kindergarten students who were beginning to learn the Spanish language and how to use it in all of their classroom subjects. Today, as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in the program, the students whom she taught in kindergarten can carry on a conversation in Spanish and use the language for discussing all subjects they learn.
The boys and girls have discovered that language and cultural exploration often allows them to study other areas of the world beyond Spanish-speaking countries. Last week, Daal’s class learned how to compare and contrast by using the example of two animals. One of these had a Swahili name, allowing students to take a closer look at languages, geography and cultures of Africa.
“(It is rewarding) when I show that students understand what I am teaching them and put it in practice and seeing the class I had in kindergarten grow,” Daal said.
She has developed a relationship with her students that extends beyond the school day. Daal regularly attends their parks and recreation ballgames, and her students visit her for Trick or Treating on Halloween. She still keeps track of her first class of Warren County students, who are now in middle school.
“They are still my babies,” Daal said.
She treasures her relationship with other Northside teachers and those who came to Warren County through the Participate program, calling them family.
Daal is grateful to be named Warren County Schools’ Teacher of the Year, but is just as grateful to be able to collaborate with other nominees on a regular basis. It meant a lot to her just to be named as Northside’s nominee, but Daal considers winning the school system award as an affirmation of her work as an educator.
“The award meant a lot,” she said. “It means that hard work pays off. Warren County and Northside are the places I was meant to be. I am grateful to the teachers, students and parents.”