Thanks to the conversational Spanish classes at Gavilan College
and the incredible patience of teacher Senor Polo, I’m attempting
to learn Spanish.
Thanks to the conversational Spanish classes at Gavilan College and the incredible patience of teacher Senor Polo, I’m attempting to learn Spanish. Senor Polo is a great teacher, I’m just not the best student around. When it comes to learning languages, my mind goes one way and my ability to enunciate words goes the other.

This isn’t the first language I’ve tried to learn. I had three years of French in high school and attacked it with the confidence of a teenager. No matter how hard I studied or how many words I memorized, when it came to actually saying the words out loud I stumbled.

Perhaps I would have taken Spanish in high school, but there were two reasons I chose French. The first being that I have a grandmother and several relatives from France. The second is during my junior high years, I had the meanest Spanish teacher on the planet. She told me in no uncertain terms that when it came to learning languages I was just plain stupid. So much for a 12-year-old’s self-esteem. When I grew up I realized she was a lousy teacher, but it soured me from learning Spanish for many years.

Later, when we moved to Hollister and I eventually got a job as a school librarian, I decided to give Spanish another try. So 15 years ago my husband and I signed up for one of Senor Polo’s Spanish classes. But with four small children, a full and a part-time job, trying to study was just too much.

The month we had in Senor Polo’s class was fun, though. It turns out my husband had never studied another language. This might be due to the fact that he was born and raised in Indiana, where only two languages are spoken: Hoosier, which is similar to English with a lot of made-up words, then there is the Indiana version of English.

So as I struggled to memorize Spanish words like “el trabajo,” my husband simply translated them to “el worko.” I learned “once” means 11, yet my husband felt “uno, uno” would do the trick. Native Spanish speakers seem to understand him, even if they do laugh a lot. When it comes to trying to speak new languages, he has a lot more confidence.

But last January I decided it was time to stretch myself by going back to school. I’ve always dreamed of learning another language and actually applying that knowledge on a regular basis. Hollister affords a wonderful opportunity for speaking two languages. It was time to stop dreaming and start doing.

I was happy to see Senor Polo was still teaching Spanish. After having 1 1/2 semesters under his tutelage I’ve come to realize he teaches out of true love. He thoroughly enjoys the Spanish language and loves helping others learn. His classes are not only informative, they are relaxed and fun.

My classmates and I share a bond of trying to learn new words, sounds and rolling R’s. We come in all ages and backgrounds. Some have had Spanish before while others are just beginning. There are those who seem at ease asking questions and trying to pronounce foreign words in front of a group. Then there are some, like myself, who are on the shy side. We know we’ll all slaughter the words we attempt to speak. Yet we plod on, determined to overcome all obstacles.

Senor Polo is right there with us – slowing down the lessons when he sees the majority struggling, detailing areas he knows will be important as our knowledge of the language deepens, encouraging us when we verbally stumble. Sharing stories of his own struggles learning English he lets us know that success is within the reach of all of us, with a lot of hard work.

Unfortunately for us, Senor Polo only teaches Conversational Spanish I & II. After this semester I’ll have to move on to another teacher, another class. I’m filled with a sense of dread. Senor Polo has never made me feel inadequate. He’s always there, friendly smile in place, ready to encourage us all. As much as I’d like to stay in the safety zone of Senor Polo’s class, I know that in order to keep learning I’ll have to move on. It’s what learning is about.

Through the years many students have passed through Senor Polo’s classes. He’s always there, ready to give his best, encouraging others to do the same.

Muchas gracias, Professor Polo. You truly are a gifted teacher.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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