The heart-broken lover describes how flowers will bloom again and love will return but it will never be the same as the passion he once shared with the object of his affection.
It’s beautiful writing but tough stuff for most seventh-grade students to fathom unless, of course, they are part of teacher Nati Martinez’s advanced Spanish literature elective class at Marguerite Maze Middle School.
“It’s a very passionate poem,” said Martinez, a 5-foot-6 teacher who speaks Spanish with animated hand gestures and walks with a bounce in her step. “It’s very romantic.”
Martinez, 40, is one of three educators from Spain teaching in the Hollister School District this year as part of the district’s decision to participate in the Visiting Teachers in the USA and Canada Program, which allows states to borrow overseas instructors for a few years. Martinez joins several teachers from abroad – including one from India and several from the Philippines – in exposing the district’s students to a world much larger than what they know in San Benito County.
While discussions of love and heartbreak may seem a bit ahead of their time for a classroom of students awkwardly adjusting to adolescence and perhaps still awaiting a first kiss, Martinez was just 14 years old when she read the poems she is now sharing with her students.
This poem will teach students about the Romanticism movement. Then, she’ll move on to teach about the Baroque and Renaissance movements before finally reaching modern work. It’s the kind of class syllabus that’s typically tackled in college courses.
“I’m just giving them little pieces,” she said.
Martinez is intentionally teaching great literary works to her students, but on a less conscious level she is also sharing a heavy dose of the accent and inwords people use in her native Spain. She pronounces c’s and z’s as a “th” as she reads through the poem with her class. She also peppers her speech with the word “vale” – used in Spain to say “okay.”
Most of her students have participated in the Hollister Dual Language Academy since kindergarten and have been taking Spanish classes for at least eight years, but that doesn’t mean they’ve heard an accent like Martinez’s before.
“This is like a whole new level,” said Mirian Hernandez, a student in Martinez’s class. “She’s a little more advanced so she pushes us a little more.”
The district’s bilingual programming was extended to the middle school last year, meaning students completing the program will earn a Seal of Biliteracy that goes on their high school diplomas and shows colleges they could complete school in Spanish if they choose.
As the students broke into small groups to discuss the poem, desk partners Alexis Lozano,12, and Lucilda Medina,12, partnered up to answer questions on a worksheet.
“It’s just been a cool experience,” said Lozano, who was surprised to learn different words are used to describe the same thing in various Spanish-speaking countries.
So far, Martinez has been teaching her students mostly about the works of writers from Spain but she plans to cover the more modern South American writers at the end of the elective.
“Spanish literature is quite vast so we’re studying in chronological order,” Martinez said.
While this is Martinez’s first time living in San Benito County, she is no stranger to the field of education as she taught for eight years in Spain and one year in France before she accepted her current position in Hollister.
Principal Diane Steele appreciates Martinez’s enthusiasm and the way she encourages students to use their Spanish-speaking skills overseas by traveling later in life.
“She’s an absolute dynamite teacher,” Steele said. “She’s just adding a spark to our school.”
And Martinez’s presence on campus allows students to learn some of the ways education may be different overseas where students have different grading systems, vacations and structures for the school day.
“The nice thing about having teachers from another country is kids get to see what it’s like to live in another country,” she said. “And they get to look at different perspectives in education.”