Learn more about Rebecca Mertz, who has taught Spanish to hundreds of kids at Obsidian Middle School over the past 22 years.
How long have you been working for RSD?
This is my 22nd year teaching in the Redmond School District, and my 30th year overall. I have taught Spanish at Obsidian Middle School my entire time in the district.
What made you want to be a teacher and what has kept you in the profession?
I was fortunate to have the same phenomenal Spanish teacher for 6 years when I was in junior high and high school. Señora Elliott made learning the language tremendously fun, and, even more importantly, she opened up the world to me. I grew up in the tiny town of Culver without a lot of exposure to other places, so I was always in awe hearing her tales of travels around the Spanish-speaking world. It awakened in me an intense desire to visit other countries and to experience other cultures. Thanks to her inspiration, I studied abroad multiple times, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and have traveled extensively. From the start, I wanted to pass on Señora Elliott’s passion for the Spanish language and her interest in other cultures. Becoming a teacher myself and striving to do for students what she did for me was a natural choice.
What is your favorite part of your job?
There is much to love about teaching Spanish, including the variety in my job. No two days are ever the same. Teaching a language easily lends itself to strategies and activities that are as engaging and fun as they are effective. In class, we sing, tell stories, play games, create skits, and much more. It is all very active and we often make a lot of noise, but it is a planned, controlled chaos!
I also really appreciate the cyclical nature of the job. Some years are rougher than others, but there is always a chance to start fresh and make improvements the next year.
The best part of the job, however, is getting to know my students, embracing their contagious energy, and helping them channel that energy toward becoming successful learners and human beings.
How has the job changed over time?
I have seen numerous changes over the last three decades, including how language teaching has been enhanced by technology. Students now have easy access to authentic resources from all over the Spanish-speaking world. For example, instead of learning food and clothing vocabulary from pictures in a textbook, we can go online and visit websites from a restaurant in Perú and a clothing store in Spain. When studying weather terminology, we can listen to a weather forecast from Argentina. When learning about famous artists, we can take a virtual tour of art museums around the world. The ability to view authentic materials and hear authentic language has been highly motivating, and has been a great way to connect classroom learning to the real world.
What do you enjoy most or find most rewarding about your role? What have been some of the challenges you have faced?
Being the only Spanish teacher in my building, I have the privilege of getting to know my students over all three years of their middle school experience. It is rewarding to witness them grow both as individuals and as Spanish students. It always makes me happy to see them progress from learning uno, dos, tres in the 6th grade to becoming proficient enough to earn 1.5 high school credits at the end of 8th grade.
Hands down, teaching online during Comprehensive Distance Learning has been the most challenging part of my career. Few of my tried-and-true language-teaching strategies translated well to the online format, so I had to rework most every lesson. I am so grateful to be back in the classroom with my students this year.
What else should we know about you?
I have two wonderful daughters who both attended Redmond schools K-12, and I also have an adorable, brand new granddaughter. In addition to travel, I love to spend time in the beautiful Central Oregon outdoors, especially hiking and kayaking.