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10 Questions with…SADD advisor and Spanish teacher Caryn Alderman

Elsie Philabaum

Caryn Alderman has worked as a Spanish teacher and Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D) advisor at Woodhaven High School since 1998. Before she started working at WHS, she spent some time at PHMS where she taught Spanish there as well for 7 years. Since then, she has worked very hard to make a well-rounded learning experience for those who strive to learn.  Alderman works diligently to make positive impacts and relationships with her students to help them be the best students they can be. With that being said, here are 10 questions that take a closer look at Ms. Alderman’s aspirations while being a teacher and advisor.

Tell me about your experience of being the SADD club advisor along with being a Spanish teacher at the same time. 

SADD has been a great club to sponsor. I have had the opportunity to meet many students that I didn’t have in the classroom and helping people in the community and other students has always been part of who I am. I have been a teacher here in Woodhaven since 1998 and started at PHMS. I enjoyed working with 8th and 9th graders but then had the opportunity to move to the high school and I was elated. In my first year here at the high school, I became the SADD advisor. I continued with many traditions and activities from the previous advisor but then implemented some of my ideas and suggestions from members. It has been a wonderful ride with SADD. All the students are so kind and welcoming and I encourage any student to join. As far as teaching Spanish, it has always been a love of mine. I love it when I see students surprise themselves with their abilities to produce the language and communicate with native speakers. I love to share and learn with my students. They keep my mind young.

So many students admire you, how does that make you feel, and how do you make those connections?

I don’t know about students admiring me but I do love making connections and building relationships that continue after graduation. It makes my heart swell with gratitude to be able to have even a tiny impact on a student. Students have impacted my life as well. I still speak and communicate with students that I had in my first year of teaching. It is all about building relationships with people and showing students that we (teachers) are human beings too with feelings and a life and can make mistakes just like students. I think that goes a long way to help build a strong connection.

What made you want to become a teacher?

Teaching is my second career. I started as a cosmetologist but after years of doing that, I realized I needed something more. I used Spanish in my Cosmetology trade as I worked on the U of M campus and had a lot of Native speakers as clients. I am a kid at heart and love to talk so I decided to go back to school and get my teaching certification. My original goal was to teach abroad, but circumstances changed plans and I have been here ever since.

Who inspires you as a teacher? Who do you look up to?

I am inspired by Kristy Placido, Carrie Toth, Mike Peto, and Blaine Ray. They are all teachers, writers, and presenters at conferences for teachers

Why did you choose Spanish among all the different subjects you could have chosen?

I chose to teach Spanish because I love the people, the culture, and the language so much. I love to learn and with language always changing it keeps me on my toes. I went to high school in Valencia Venezuela for a few years and that started my love of all things culture and people.

What change do you feel like you have made to the students in the district?

That is a hard question. I would love to think that I have made lots of positive changes to students. However, I don’t know. I can tell you that I pushed for the students to be able to take the biliteracy test and implemented that. I love traveling with students and seeing their eyes filled with amazement on our trips. I hope they remember the fun and that I care about every one of them.

What are your hobbies outside of school?

My hobbies are gardening, DIY projects in my house (I’m going to tile my backsplash in my kitchen over break), the gym, my furbaby Stella, and hanging with my kids when they come home.

How do you hope students remember your class and have you as a teacher/advisor?

I hope that students remember that anyone can learn a language if they want to, that I cared about them, and that they felt comfortable and cared for in my class. I would hope many have fun memories of Spanish class.

Throughout the years has there been a time where you haven’t fully enjoyed teaching, and if so what has made you grow from that experience?

Yes, there has been a time when I didn’t enjoy my job. But at the time I had great teacher friends who helped pull me through the dark times. It wasn’t easy but it showed me that if I set my mind to something, anything is possible

What is the best moment that you have experienced while being a teacher?

I do not have one special moment. I have had many! Anytime one of my students (they are my kids, too) achieves something, my heart fills with joy for them and it makes it all worth it. When they graduate, get recognized, or complete a goal, Those are amazing moments. The ugly cry moments have been few but they are awesome. One year, my students gave me a photo of all of them and signed it, a bracelet, and a book where everyone wrote me a letter. I cried and cried. Another year, all my students in class wrote me notes of thanks and shared memories with me. The ugly cry moments removed all the bad days and reminded me why I am here. I’m here to help our students in any way I can.

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