After years of creating stories, singing songs and exploring the Spanish language with generations of students, Spanish teacher Marcelyn Smith will conclude her 25year teaching career.
Smith earned her teaching credential at Brigham Young University, but she did not originally intend to become a teacher, instead beginning her college education as an art major and a Spanish minor.
“I always loved teaching but didn’t expect to be a teacher,” Smith said. “And then, I went to Spain as an art student with a university program. Then, I just realized how much I loved Spanish.” After she returned from Spain, Smith switched her major to Spanish. She taught in Oklahoma as a student teacher for a year, then came back to California, where she taught elementary and middle school Spanish in an enrichment program. Following that, Smith came to San Marin, where she would teach Spanish for the next 18 years.
Throughout Smith’s teaching career, storytelling, music and songs have been integral aspects of her curriculum. “I really believe in stories as a medium for teaching, and for language, it’s really wonderful,” Smith said. “When you’re creating something with somebody, it’s pretty magical; it really makes things come alive. I totally believe in stories as a way to bring people together and build relationships.”
Smith said that some of her more memorable experiences as a teacher include the trips she has embarked on with her students. In 2007, Smith traveled to Guatemala with approximately ten students and two science teachers. They worked in a wildlife refuge center, “where animals who had been rescued from poachers were brought back to be mended, healed, and hopefully released again.” The students and teachers lived in the refuge center with volunteers from across Europe and the United States, many of whom were college students. Smith described the experience as “pretty spectacular” and “really hard work, but very fun and really bonding.”
Smith said that when she leaves San Marin, she will miss the relationships she has built with her students and her colleagues. “The students have made my life so rich,” she said. “One of the biggest joys for me is getting to know all the students, what they like and don’t like, what they dream about, what they struggle with. Really, what I care most about is them. And I will miss my colleagues—I work with really special people.”
When Smith retires, she plans to tutor, possibly substitute at San Marin, and volunteer with an organization that helps the Spanish-speaking community in Sebastopol. Outside of the educational realm, she hopes to spend time hiking, biking, backpacking and gardening. In August, Smith will travel to the Canadian Rockies with three friends, and in 2020, she will fly to France to participate in a painting workshop. Smith plans to stay in a castle with friends and study painting for a week, then spend time in Paris afterwards. Smith said that even though she chose to switch to Spanish for her career, she still has maintained her passion for art throughout the years. She also looks forward to spending more time at the De Young and other spaces where she can admire artwork.
As Smith moves on from San Marin, she will not be forgotten by the staff members and students who she has impacted. French teacher Jeffrey Moore, who said Smith has been “a dear friend” to him for nine years, considers her to be “probably the kindest person who works on this campus.”
“Not only has she worked tirelessly for her students, she has been a great mentor and support of mine since I first started at San Marin,” Moore said. “She will be sorely and sadly missed in our World Languages department and on our campus.”