“No one will see your tears. No one will hear your screams. No one will believe your lies.”
This is the class motto written on the board in front of Spanish teacher Jennifer Holder’s classroom. On the board, an illustration follows the mantra: a stick-figure student, running from a Sharknado towards a swirling black portal.
“I’m sorry kids, but the portal is closing, and once it does, there’s no going back.”
The freshmen stare in horror.
“You simply have to get your homework in on time.”
These class mottos are some of the many ways Holder keeps students looking forward to her class. With the help of her catchy songs and quirky sayings, Holder runs her class differently than traditional teachers.
“Every day is something new, which is the best part of it,” said sophomore Denny Rice. “I never know what to expect.”
At first glance, the Spanish 2, 3 and 4 classes Holder teaches may look like any other class, but in no other room will you find students taking class selfies with wax mustaches, or receiving signed self portraits of Holder as prizes. You won’t see Powerpoints full of guitar sound effects or the dreaded dancing baby.
“[Dancing baby] is a bald baby [Señora Holder] puts on her note slides,” said sophomore Katie MacAdam. “It plays the air guitar and does this roll down and back up. It’s just on there as a little pop, a little extra action.”
And, of course, you won’t find a class motto that compares to Holder’s.
“She’s just being very blunt,” MacAdam said. “All you have to do to succeed is get your Conjuguemos done on time. You just have to get in the portal.”
Holder became a teacher 16 years ago after quitting her job as a commodities trader so she could spend more time with her 6-year-old daughter. Because of the time her job as a teacher gave her, she and her daughter grew closer. Through years of being a single parent, they took vacations together, celebrated birthdays and rode to school together every day.
Holder started teaching at Archbishop O’Hara High School in Kansas City, but moved to East eight years ago for the almost doubled salary. She loves teaching, especially the family atmosphere a classroom creates.
“When you have students for a year, [the class] develops its own personality, its own little quirks,” Holder said. “You have your crazy uncle, and you have your favorite cousin.”
Holder uses this environment in her teaching style. She bounces up and down the rows of desks throwing one of her favorite sayings, “What the what?” at the quietest freshman. She changes her desktop picture weekly to display the Lancer Day parade, the debate team’s latest trophy or the swim team.
“Señora is so witty and smart, and I feel like [her humor] doesn’t distract from the class,” Rice said. “It keeps it moving forward. I think a lot of that goes back to how interactive she is with her students.”
Holder goes beyond standing in front of the class and lecturing to make sure students feel like they belong.
“Señora is a great teacher because the way she makes her students feel so comfortable in her class,” said MacAdam. “I feel like she genuinely cares about each of her students. She treats us as if we were her friends.”
At the end of the day, Holder doesn’t only teach her students Spanish, but she also gives them a place where they can be themselves.
“Be careful kids!” she calls as students file out her classroom door. “It’s a jungle out there.”