After 31 years in teaching, Spanish teacher set to retire

World language teacher Patricia Black.

After teaching for 31 years, Spanish teacher Patricia Black will be retiring in the fall.

Black began her teaching career in a small town in Argentina. After graduating from school, she earned her first job teaching English as a second language the following March. She taught in Argentina for 10 years, until she was later given the opportunity to take part in a selection process for teachers to be sent abroad.

“I went to a conference, and I was invited to take part in gathering of teachers that were probably going to be sent abroad, so I went through the process of selection, and I was one of the 10 teachers selected to come to the United States. The idea at that point in time was for me to come, observe what was going on in the American school system, and go back with answers and suggestions for the Argentinians,” Black said.

While Black enjoyed her time in the United States, she did not plan on staying. However, things were made a little more difficult when she met her future husband, John Black.

“One of the things that I knew for sure was that I wanted to be in Argentina because my family is there and was there, and I really did not have any intention of staying. I really loved the country that gave me birth. Everybody was there; there was no need for me to be here. It so happened that I met my future husband in the United States, but I still didn’t want to stay. I wanted to be back because I thought if this relationship was going to last we needed to be separated for some time to see if this is really what it is, and personally I felt that I was only going to be able to do that if I was back in Argentina with my roots, with my family and thinking it through,” Black said.

Black travelled back to Argentina and continued her relationship with John Black over phone. A few months later, he proposed. The two were married shortly after in Argentina.

Black and her husband then moved to Monticello, Iowa, to start a life and family.

“When I first came to the United States I went to Monticello, and I thought I was going to die because I came in January. I left Argentina at 94 degrees, and in 24 hours it was -15 degrees. It was quite an experience. It was quite a shocker.”

A little while after moving, Black began subbing at one of the schools in Monticello. The principal at the school immediately offered Black a job teaching Spanish, which she then took. She worked there for a short while, until moving back to Argentina in the years that followed so that her children would have a chance to know their roots.

After spending a couple of years in Argentina, Black and her family carefully deliberated and eventually decided to move to Cedar Falls to settle down and raise their family.

While her family moved around a great deal, Black said that she felt it was meant for them to end up in Cedar Falls.

“I am a believer, and I think things were meant for us to come to Cedar Falls. I don’t where we’re going to go next, or if we’re going to go anywhere next, but we came back, and Cedar Falls seemed to be the right place for us at the time, and that’s how we ended up here,” Black said.

Shortly after arriving in Iowa, Black found a job teaching at Cedar Falls High School, where she went on to continue teaching Spanish.

Black described the responsibility that she felt when it came to being a language teacher.

“In terms of being a language teacher, I think your main goal should be not just the language, but making people aware that they can be different, that essentially we are all human beings and we can learn from each other. Differences can enhance more than separate. That has always been my goal. Yes, the language is essential, but there is so much more.”

And the students take a lot away from the values that Black pushes in her classroom. Junior Emily Lehman described some of her favorite things about Señora Black.

“The thing I love most about Sra. Black is her energy. She is always in a good mood, and she is nearly always smiling. Her senses of humor, fun and kindness are intrinsic in the classroom. She uses her energy to encourage and engage. She encourages questions. She encourages feedback. She encourages positive moods. Most of all, she encourages learning. She consistently makes sure that her students understand what she is teaching them. She legitimately cares, both about what she’s teaching and her students. She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. I’ll miss her smiling face and her quirks and everything that makes Sra. Black the great teacher she is,” Lehman said.

Black said that she wants to be remembered as someone who pushed her students to be themselves.

“Differences enhance. We should not be so scared of someone that might look or act different. Give yourself the chance of figuring out where the other person comes from. We have a saying in Spanish: don’t ever talk about somebody else, unless you walk in those person’s shoes. Look at a person as a person, not as how a person looks. Scratch a little deeper and figure out what’s underneath,” Black said.

While Black said she is excited for the new opportunities that retirement offers, she will really miss teaching in the classroom.

“I will miss the camaraderie of my colleagues, the friendships that I’ve made and I don’t want to sound cheesy, but I’m going to miss the everyday contact and the fun that I have with the kids as I teach.”

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