Teacher brings culture to classroom

Published 9:31 am Tuesday, February 17, 2015

HOLA: Vicksburg Junior High School Spanish teacher Olivia Foshee shows off her classroom.

HOLA: Vicksburg Junior High School Spanish teacher Olivia Foshee shows off her classroom.

Su nombre es Olivia Foshee — Her name is Olivia Foshee.

Foshee, a Spanish teacher at Vicksburg Junior High School, said she tries to teach her students about Spanish speaking cultures.

“I try to incorporate more than just the vocabulary,” she said. “If you only understand the vocabulary without the context of the culture, you’re not learning as much as you can.”

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Foshee said she teaches her students about geography by explaining where different Spanish speaking countries are and about music by introducing them to musicians like Carlos Santana.

“I try to encourage them to learn about other cultures,” she said. “We did salsa on Fridays, and I think they really enjoyed that. We use online videos. They’re young and talented and energetic, so they’re able to follow along.”

Foshee said she encourages her students to speak Spanish outside of the classroom.

“Spanish speakers want to practice their Spanish with you and won’t try to put you down if you say the wrong thing, and they mostly are excited if you are trying to speak with them,” she said. “If they’re living here they know how hard it is to learn another language.”

Foshee’s classroom includes Spanish-language magazines, Spanish bingo and Spanish labels on the furniture and walls.

“We have small classes, which is a big advantage,” she said. “They sit at tables because we do group work a lot, and we get up out of our seats a lot.”

Foshee, a University of Mississippi graduate, said she decided she wanted to teach Spanish her junior year of college.

“Spanish had always been my favorite subject since high school, and I had great teachers in high school,” she said. “I started looking for opportunities to teach Spanish and because I am Episcopalian, I ended up in Vicksburg at All Saints’ Episcopal High School.

The school closed down soon after, but Foshee said she had already fallen in love with the community and decided to stay.

“I love to travel and practice my Spanish,” she said. “I went on a mission trip to Honduras. My church does a medical mission there, and I went with a group of doctors to work in the eye clinic as a translator.”

Foshee said when she also uses her language skills locally by translating for attorneys and teaching introductory Spanish courses for the city or the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation.

When Foshee is not busy translating and teaching she enjoys being involved with her church, Christ Episcopal, taking care of her three-year-old son and participating with local community theater groups.