SCHS Spanish teacher named best in the state

Dec. 01, 2012 @ 04:25 PM

SEVIERVILLE — For Sevier County High School's Lisa Stone, teaching is just one part of her job.

The Tennessee Foreign Language Teaching Association (TFLTA) recently honored the SCHS Spanish teacher with the annual Joyce Ward Teacher of the Year Award, which is presented to an outstanding K-12 foreign language teacher.

Stone didn't have to explain why she deserves the award — she showed it.

"Es nin˜a? Que´ preciosa!" said Stone into her cell phone.

In the middle of the interview, her daughter, a pharmaceutical student who was working in the intensive care unit at Johnson City Medical Center, unexpectedly called her with an urgent request. A Hispanic woman had just given birth to her first baby after just a 28-week gestation period. The baby was being fed through its nose by a tube, and the mother had trouble breastfeeding with the tubes attached.

Stone translated her daughter's instructions to the Spanish-speaking mother, and after a few minutes everyone was on the same page.

"This is why I do Spanish," Stone said when the interview resumed. "This is why I do it, because this is what I love."

Stone said using her Spanish-speaking abilities to help others is the icing on the cake: She loves teaching, but she also loves being able to do more than just that.

A veteran educator, Stone has been teaching Spanish for 16 years, 15 in the Sevier County School System. She teaches Spanish 1-4 for grades 10-12.

Stone said she was surprised when she won the award. In fact, she didn't even know she'd been entered for it.

Patt Webb, a colleague at SCHS who won this same award in 2010, gathered materials to use for Stone's entry.

"It was a major surprise when I found out," Stone said.

Stone didn't always want to be a teacher, but one of her professors at UT saw her natural ability with language and initially inspired and encouraged her to pursue Spanish.

Then, she began doing community service projects at UT that involved working with Hispanic communities, and her command of the language took off during an immersion experience in Puebla, Mexico.

"I had taken all these higher-level Spanish courses and I felt comfortable in the classroom, but after living there, that's when my ability to speak Spanish really turned the corner," she said. "And I just think that's such an awesome experience."

That's what Stone hopes her students take from her class, a more global perspective. She said she wants her students to know that Spanish is an invaluable tool in a global economy, while also realizing how knowing a foreign language can serve the local community.

"I believe that foreign language classes help students to learn about other cultures as well as their own, so that they can be positive contributors to our community in Sevier County also," Stone said.

Stone said she tries to lead by example so her students understand the value in language studies, "which is why missions and service projects are a big part of what I do," she said.

"We make comparisons to other cultures, but there are also those connections, the ways that we are alike. And I think those connections are important for the students to realize," Stone said. "We might speak a different language and have some different traditions and customs, but we still have so many similarities — families working the same way, all those relationship-type things.

"I think it unites us more than divides us to know about each other."

rhargett@themountainpress.com