Teacher Grants Keep a Classroom Unpredictable

Sep 22, 2023

Patricia Rueda holds a belief that helps guide her Spanish instruction: “I don’t want my students to know what to expect. I want to keep it fresh.”

Spanish teacher Patricia Rueda standing next to a collage highlighting Colombia.

Patricia Rueda in her classroom at Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences.

Born and raised in Colombia, Rueda has dedicated her life to teaching foreign languages, her passion. She has taught English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in Colombia, and Spanish on both coasts of Florida. For the past 12 years, she has taught middle school learners at Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences (SSAS).

Years of experience have taught her that the more actively and creatively kids learn, the more they understand and retain. “Kids get bored easily,” Rueda said, “and if you don’t engage them, you lose them.”

She is always thinking about and researching new ways to captivate her students and provide them opportunities to be creative and to show what they know. That means they create comic strips, memory box posters, smash doodles, dialogues, and more. When they study the life and art of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, the class even creates a mural, mirroring his style.

Said Rueda, “I love to have them create and show me what they know.”

Throughout her time at SSAS, to provide new opportunities for her students, Rueda has turned frequently to the Education Foundation for grant funding. The title of her grant project this year aptly sums up her approach to teaching: Hands-On Activities Are Wonderful Because They Are Engaging and Fun.

Spanish teacher Patricia Rueda in her classroom with a student holding an art project.

Patricia Rueda with a student holding a character memory box project.

With the grant, she received art supplies that her students use to creatively interact with silent films, reading materials, and other mediums. Students have produced posters, comic strips, and collections of telling details that they draw and then describe in Spanish. As the students actively create, they engage with the material more meaningfully and have fun while learning new words, tenses, and sentence structures, which can pose unique challenges.

Through other Education Foundation teacher grants, Rueda has amassed a library of beginner books in Spanish that her students select during 10-minute free reads. When they finish reading, they share with a classmate or the entire class what they read.

Rueda is continually impressed by what they understand after they finish reading. Especially rewarding is seeing her students realize how much they know and can translate.

Three Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences standing in front of a mural project in their Spanish classroom.

Students in front of their Picasso mural project.

“I love seeing them learning,” she said. “I love hearing them speak. It just brightens my day.”

Along with creative supplies, Rueda has used teacher grants to purchase mini whiteboards students use to recall information and engage playfully with the material. She has received Integrated Performance Assessments, which provide her students with other opportunities to show what they have learned and what they know while developing their communication skills.

Teacher grants help Rueda keep each class on its toes. And she loves that. She wants her students to enter her Spanish class each day uncertain where it will go, but certain it will be somewhere interesting, hands-on, and fun.

Teachers, it’s not too late to apply for a grant! Learn how you can bring your creative ideas to life.