Teacher Virginia Guidry: Sharing Spanish culture with students ‘the most beautiful experience’

Published 5:00 am Friday, December 8, 2023

Spanish teacher Virginia Guidry, 52, believes in the importance of learning Spanish as a second language.

She was born in Oviedo, Spain, and graduated from Ausev High School in her hometown. She then made her move to the United States to attend Northwestern State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in science and a master’s degree in clinical psychology.

Two of her brothers are Spanish teachers in Louisiana and her sister is a Spanish teacher in Gulf Shores, Ala. She gained her first experience with teaching when she was a freshman in college returning to Spain every summer to teach English as a foreign language at a Spanish summer camp called “The Ferreria.”

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This experience was amazing and solidified her drive to become an educator, she said. Now, she has taught for 25 years, and began a career as a psychology instructor at NSU for five years and Spanish for Louisiana Virtual School before coming to Lake Charles — a move that followed her marriage. She began teaching Spanish at Sulphur High School.

Over the years, she has also obtained a Master of Arts in teaching and has completed all required coursework for a Doctorate of Education in counseling psychology from Argosy University.

Currently, she is the ninth grade Spanish II and AP Spanish teacher at the Sulphur Ninth Grade Campus.

With the growing population of Spanish speakers in Southwest Louisiana, Guidry is equipping students with the tools to effectively communicate and interact with them.

“Being able to communicate with them can have a huge impact on people’s lives in our community. In addition, by learning Spanish, students will have more positive attitudes in the community, and this will lead to a decrease in prejudice towards people who are different.”

She deeply enjoys teaching ninth grade and understands her responsibility as an educator during an age that is a pivotal moment in every teen’s success story.

To further her work with this grade level, she is the Literary Rally sponsor for the Sulphur Ninth Grade Center. In this role, she works alongside Robert Prejean, a math teacher at Sulphur High School, to prep the students for both district and sate rallies. She said that Literary Rally allows her to witness one of her favorite parts of teaching, seeing her students apply their knowledge and succeed.

Her time teaching the students of Southwest Louisiana has been special. The opportunity to share her passion for her Spanish culture with her students is the most beautiful experience, she said.

“As a native Spanish teacher, I have a deep love for Spain, and it is a true honor to be able to share my story with my students.”

Many of her students have not been afforded the opportunity to travel abroad, so in her classroom, they are given the chance to be globetrotters who learn about her experiences and favorite Spanish traditions — las tapas, la siesta, el flamenco.

This is a practice that is vital for a fully-fleshed foreign language education, and it is Guidry’s goal to encourage her students — past, present and future — to continue their Spanish language and culture education.

“I believe that when students learn a language, but also its culture and symptoms, the student’s world perspective is greatly expanded.”

Her students validate her when they come to visit with tales of speaking Spanish out in the wild.

“Over the years, students have told me that they have been able to order something in Spanish at a Mexican restaurant, or that they were able to hold a conversation at a dance with a cute boy who did not speak English or help a stranger who needed help communicating in English in the community. Of course, these ‘aha moments’ occur in all disciplines, but there is something beautiful about learning a language that allows students to communicate with someone whom they would have never understood.”

When they look back, her students will remember a positive classroom environment filled with engaged learning, meaningful connections and lessons with the personal touch of Guidry’s Spanish stories.

“The material must be interesting, engaging, and exciting. If I am not having fun, the students are not having fun, and we are not learning. … This allows me to get to know my students on a personal level. Of course, I know that I have the best students in the parish.”