Fourth graders in Jenny Ferries’ class can’t wait to tell her about a book they’re reading or show her how they solved a math problem. What’s different from many other classrooms is that they tell her all about it in Spanish. Ferries is a teacher at Puesta del Sol Elementary School, a Spanish Immersion Elementary School in the Bellevue School District. She’s also been named Teacher of the Year by fellow world language educators from across the state.
In mid-October, Ferries was presented with the prestigious award by the Washington Association for Language Teaching (WAFLT). The award recognizes teachers who, among other criteria, use innovative approaches and creativity in teaching world languages. “I love teaching”, Ferries says. “It’s a calling. If I’m having fun teaching, then my students are having fun learning and they’re engaged.” Ferries incorporates “STEAM” – or Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math – activities and projects into her lessons. For example, students build bridges out of paper and float boats out of tin foil, using engineering concepts taught in science class.
At Puesta del Sol, students in kindergarten through fifth grade are taught the standard district curriculum, and receive all instruction in Spanish, with English Language Arts being introduced in 3rd grade. They learn to understand, speak, read, and write Spanish, in addition to English. Students are immersed in the Spanish language, which develops their ability to comprehend complex instructions and engage in conversation at a young age.
Ferries has taught at Puesta del Sol for the last six years. Ferries says she loves teaching at Puesta del Sol and being in the Bellevue School District because of its “supportive administration, overwhelming parent and community support, and very knowledgeable colleagues.” Prior to Bellevue, she taught in the Tacoma School District for four years. Growing up in Montana, Ferries met the teachers who would play an important role in her own teaching career. “I had a few amazing teachers growing up who greatly influenced my outlook on teaching and they showed me how impactful a passionate and motivated teacher can be,” says Ferries.
Ferries is also the advisor for the after-school Lego Robotics Club, which she started at Puesta del Sol in 2010. Her goal is that every student at Puesta del Sol will have some type of robotics experience before graduating fifth grade. She makes it look fun. In the back of her classroom, a large table wrapped in Star Wars fabric is where students put their homemade robots made from Lego pieces to the test.
“I want to be the teacher that makes a difference in the lives of my students and that challenges them to go further than they believed possible.”