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Q&A with trilingual teacher on triumphs of teaching language

Photo credit: Katie Ray McKillop
Sara Gil Sáiz gives advice to one of her eighth grade French 1B students. Gil Sáiz has taught at Archer for two years. She said when she first read Archer’s mission statement, she fell in love with the school immediately. “I loved it instantly,” she said. “I saw [a job opening], so I applied, and here I am.”

As you walk into a room filled with posters in Spanish and French, language teacher Sara Gil Sáiz is excited to she see her students inspired by language. Gil Sáiz is trilingual and teaches Spanish and French at Archer.

Gil Sáiz grew up in Spain speaking Spanish. She also learned French at school when she was 10 and subsequently fell in love with the language. She then learned English when she was 6, but said she did not always feel connected to the language. It was not until she started teaching in the U.S. three years ago that she started to develop a deeper appreciation for English. 

Gil Sáiz has been teaching at Archer for two years. She teaches several classes including French 1B, French 2 and all Spanish 3 classes.

The Oracle sat down with with Gil Sáiz to learn more about her experience as a trilingual teacher.

Did you always know you want to be a teacher?

Sara Gil Sáiz [SGS]: Actually, I wanted to be a nurse when I was 15, 16 or so. My school organized conferences with other professors from universities. The person who came [to talk] from her perspective about teaching [and] about her connection with kids, and, even, with adults [and] learning the language that you speak. I didn’t know, for some reason, that situation spoke to me … After that, I said, ‘Why not?’ And I wouldn’t change anything. I mean, I love teaching, I love my job… it’s amazing.

Is it ever difficult switching back between teaching French and Spanish at the same time?

[SGS]: Sometimes. If you ask my colleagues or my students, sometimes if I’m doing something in a language and then my brain didn’t switch fast enough, I answer you in the language that I was thinking before. And that’s not probably the language that you have — that you are studying. But yeah, that happens not very often, but this year, I don’t know maybe eight times … Sometimes my brain is, like, “Wait, let’s see what language do we need to speak right now in.”

What’s your favorite aspect of teaching?

[SGS]: That’s a hard question because I like a lot of things. One of the things that I like the most is to see … the reaction and the faces of my students when they realize that they have done something very well and they understand how language works. You can see their faces — they click in their brains like, “Oh, I got it.” And that is really, really magical to see. I love that. I also love to learn from students, from their perspective, their point of view, and also being able to share with them my point of view that is attached to a language … Language is not only the things that you say or how you speak. It’s a culture, a context, countries [and] life experiences. The fact that I can share that with my students I think is really cool … Languages are useful to share. The goal is to share things, to be able to communicate with other people [and] to connect. And that is what I like most — to see how my students are growing in that aspect, becoming better and more independent.

What’s the most important message you want to impress upon your students?

[SGS]: If I can speak English right now, they can speak whatever they want to speak … They laugh a lot, but it’s okay to make mistakes. They need to keep trying. They need to keep asking questions because that’s the only way to learn… I don’t want them to be afraid of speaking in Spanish or French, just because someone else or a native speaker is going to speak better than them. Yes and what? So what? I mean that’s really helpful for you. So you can learn a lot so just, I don’t know, jump into the pool … If you make a mistake, laugh about it, learn from it and try again and again and again. The more you try, the better and the funnier it will be.

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About the Contributor
Katie Ray McKillop
Katie Ray McKillop, Staff Reporter
Katie Ray McKillop joined The Oracle as a staff reporter in 2023. She is on the surf team and swim team at Archer. In her free time, Katie Ray enjoys painting, baking, reading, and spending time with her friends.

Comments (1)

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    Maya HernándezMay 14, 2024 at 1:20 pm

    I love this so much Katie Ray! You did such an awesome job.