Senior teaches Roanoke County elementary students Spanish

Mallory McClaine volunteers at Fort Lewis Elementary School and New Vista Montessori School in Roanoke.


Mallory McClaine ’09 certainly knows how to push herself to new heights.  Not only is McClaine graduating from Roanoke College a year early, but she also is teaching Spanish to elementary students two days a week at Fort Lewis Elementary School and New Vista Montessori School, both in Roanoke.  She said that she is having a “blast” working with such young minds.

“It’s exciting to see the students wide-eyed and excited,” McClaine said.  “I love Spanish and the culture, and seeing them excited excites me too.”

McClaine said that she likes the Spanish culture because of the language and the laid back lifestyle.  After visiting Costa Rica for spring break during her senior year of high school, McClaine knew that she wanted to major in Spanish after arriving at Roanoke.

McClaine has used her experience abroad in the classroom, immersing her students in the culture and the customs.  Her first classroom lesson was Christmas- themed, teaching her students about holiday customs in Spain.  McClaine’s lesson plans include Powerpoint presentations about the culture and basic conversational skills, and she even uses puppets to interact with the children.  She makes it a point to keep her students active with the material.

“The big thing at that age is first-hand experience learning the language,” McClaine said.  “The kids never stay in one spot during my lessons because I want them to interact with the lessons.”

McClaine also is learning more about the language herself through her teaching.  She said that without this program, she may never have known that she wanted to teach Spanish at the primary level after graduation.  Her experiences with the education department at the College are, in her opinion, unique from other colleges’ programs. 

“I have learned more by teaching for 45 minutes two days a week than I would during an hour and a half lecture,” McClaine said.  “I love the education department because they do a good job getting people into the classroom.”

McClaine also is using her experiences with teaching to develop research regarding the development of the brain.  For her honors thesis, McClaine is researching the impacts of studying a foreign language at a young age and how older students usually struggle if not introduced to foreign language study in elementary school.  She said that it is important to brain development and overall perception of the world for young people to study a foreign language in terms.

“It’s important to get a global perspective,” McClaine said.  “Just because a culture is different doesn’t make it wrong.”

McClaine soon will live by those words in the summer when she plans to be an au pére to a three-and four-year old in Cadiz, Spain.

Released: April 14, 2009