UPDATE: Congratulations again to Patxi! He was awarded 2016 Regional Teacher of the Year for the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. This puts him in contention for the national Teacher of the Year.
Grant Patxi Boulanger arrived at the El Lago del Bosque as a young man, ready to share his love of language. Little did he know that his experience with the Language Villages would change the course of his life.
“I worked my first academic year weekend program on a snowy winter weekend in January of 1997 and I loved it! I signed on as a credit counselor for the summer and continued through the next academic year. I spent my first summer relying heavily on the experience of the credit program curriculum facilitator. We brainstormed into the night, developing activities for my credit classes the next day. It was my first real experience as a teacher. During this first experience as a credit teacher I began to realize I would need to explore a career as an educator.”
Grant credits his experience as a counselor with helping him realize his calling.
“I remember feeling I had found a special place. This experience came as I was readjusting to life in the United States after having spent a year studying in Salamanca, Spain. I had also recently been introduced to clay as a medium of art, which also created space for a seismic shift in my life path. I now knew, before ever arriving in Bemidji, that my four year degree in international business would never see me country hopping from office to office in a suit and tie. CLV taught me what I didn’t yet know - that being an educator was my calling.”
Today, as an experienced Spanish teacher at Skyview Middle School in the North Saint Paul, Maplewood, Oakdale District, Grant has realized that many of the methods used by the Language Villages can be transferred to his classroom.
“I have experienced a major shift in how I teach over the years that has resulted in higher achievement and enrollment than I ever thought possible. This shift was ultimately set in motion by that first wintry weekend in Bemidji. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there’s a secret ingredient that makes the CLV experience work so well for so many students. We now know that spontaneous, unrehearsed speech can only emerge after many, many hours of input - reading and listening to the language. This input must be understandable, interesting and voluminous. CLV succeeds because counselors fill villagers’ eyes and ears with understandable messages that are interesting, meaningful and fun!”
Recently, Grant was awarded the 2015 Minnesota World Language Teacher of the Year Award from the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures (MCTLC). This is one of the organization’s highest awards and recognizes outstanding all-around work in the field of world languages and cultures education.
“Without question my experiences at CLV have helped me become the person and educator I am today. Teaching language through experiences gave me an upper hand. I knew early on that traditional textbook learning would not, could not be the most effective approach to getting students to fall in love with language and culture. I struggled my first several years as a Spanish teacher, but my experiences at CLV helped give me my north. I knew I had to explore, try, fail, and try again until I found a way to get the results I wanted.”