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Native Knowledge

If you’re in a Spanish-speaking country, and you hear someone sneeze once, say “Salud,” for health. If you hear them sneeze twice, say “Dinero,”Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.51.06 AMfor money. And if you hear them sneeze a third time, say “Amor,” for love.
Rosa Detrixhe, more commonly known as Señora Detrixhe by her students, uses her Argentinian background to add to her teaching, along the typical American curriculum. She shows them, not tells them, what living in a Spanish-speaking country is like.

Detrixhe grew up in Salta, Argentina.  She’s the Spanish teacher with the authentic Argentinian accent, changing her double L’s to ‘sh’ type sounds.

Detrixhe’s Spanish-speaking skills make teaching the grammatical side of the language much easier, so she can try to focus on more cultural topics like Latino music, cooking and more. Even though a set district curriculum makes fitting in cultural experiences hard, Detrixhe has an advantage, because she can slip in phrases and stories during lessons.

“When you learn a foreign language it’s not just knowing how to use the grammar properly,” Detrixhe said. “You have to understand where the other people are coming from. Why are they thinking that way?  What are their customs? When you put it all together in perspective, then you can be a true Spanish student.”

Because of Detrixhe’s Argentinian background, she teaches her students things like the sayings used to say ‘OK’ in Northern Argentina versus in Mexico City, which can help students understand the language culturally and more in depth.

Senior Macy Shutts had Detrixhe as a teacher when she was a freshman in Spanish 1, and has her this year, in Spanish 4. Shutts recognizes that Detrixhe really wants her to succeed in Spanish and later in life

“She knows where [it’s] coming from,” Shutts said.

Detrixhe understands why certain phrases exist and why the language is the way it is. Shutts has also benefited from having Detrixhe as a teacher, because of the extra knowledge she was able to gain.
“She knows all the slang words,” Shutts said. “You can kind of get more ‘Spanish Spanish’,” Shutts said. “Instead of the Americans trying to speak Spanish. You just learn the Argentinian Spanish instead of general Spanish.”

detrixheDetrixhe appreciates how difficult learning a language is, especially when the class is only once a day. She had to learn English as a kid in Argentina as part of the school curriculum, and she only had foreign language classes three times a week.

“I think that she appreciates education and the opportunities that it can provide for students much more than anyone else,” Spanish teacher Pamela James said. “She had to work very hard in school to succeed to be able to come to the United States to create more opportunities for herself.”

Detrixhe grew up a native Spanish speaker, but she also brings cultural life experiences to the classrooms that aren’t language related. For example, she has a different attitude towards student-teacher relationships than in the United States. She saw a lot more respect in Argentina from students to teachers.

“If the teacher will address to the student, that student was supposed to get up and give the answer to the teacher standing up” Detrixhe said.

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.51.26 AMDetrixhe also notices how the working culture is different in the U.S. Many students at East have jobs, which can sometimes lead to distraction from school work.

“For us, it was homework first and homework second and homework third,” Detrixhe said. “We never worked when we were in high school. We never worked.”

Detrixhe lived in Argentina until she was a senior in high school, then moved to the U.S. for a year with an exchange student program. She moved to north-central Kansas, where she met Phil Detrixhe, her persistent fellow classmate, who visited her in Argentina after her year was up, with romantic intentions.

Persistent Phil married Detrixhe when she was in Argentina, working as a grade school teacher. Then they moved back to the states to visit Phil’s parents; Detrixhe thought the visit would be temporary.

But it wasn’t. They stayed in the U.S., and Detrixhe went to Kansas State University to get her bachelor’s degree as an elementary school teacher, after she had kids.

“I was traveling back and forth to K-State three times a week,” Detrixhe said. “So I was on the road for almost two hours [in the morning] and in the evening for almost two hours.”

She then went on to get certified in teaching Spanish, kindergarten through twelfth grade, after a professor convinced her that teaching Spanish would be very easy with her background. And for the last fourteen years, Detrixhe has been teaching Spanish for the Shawnee Mission School District, at Shawnee Mission East, Shawnee Mission South, Mission Valley, and Pawnee Elementary.

“I can be halfway dead and I still can be teaching Spanish,” Detrixhe said. “I can offer my expertise, not so much in the language, but also from my experiences, my life and I can share that.”

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Celia Hack

Celia Hack is a senior at Shawnee Mission East, and this is her third year on the Harbinger staff. She is very excited to be the editor of the Harbinger Online, though she also participates in the IB program and cross country. Read Full »

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