Joann Luzenski: Fueling a Passion for Spanish at State High

Luzenski points to the whiteboard as she teaches the students in her classroom.
Luzenski points to the whiteboard as she teaches the students in her classroom.
Jacob Will

Joann Luzenski, a highly passionate Spanish teacher, has announced that she will be retiring this June after 35 years of teaching.

She began her teaching career in 1989, at Mifflin County’s Middle School, teaching Spanish. After three years at Mifflin County, she transitioned over to State High. This year marks her 32nd year at the high school, teaching Spanish 2 and Advanced Spanish 4.

Luzenski comes from a family of educators. Her father was an elementary school teacher and her older sister was an English teacher. Not only did her family inspire her to become a teacher, but her high school friends did, as well. “They always used to say to me that I was really good at explaining difficult concepts or breaking them down into more understandable chunks,” Luzenski said.

Luzenski took this advice and ran with it. She has loved Spanish her whole life. “I loved archeology and history, but having lived with a Mexican family in a summer study as an undergraduate just got me really interested,” she said. “I became fascinated by the language and culture.”

Luzenski attended Bloomsburg University and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Ed and Spanish. After multiple summer studies in Spain earlier in her career, Luzenski earned her Master of Arts from Middlebury College, where she spent an intensive summer at the Vermont campus and then completed an academic year studying at the C.V. Starr School in Madrid, Spain. Luzenski also studied in Mexico and visited Puerto Rico.

On the other hand, she adds her main purpose and goal of being a Spanish teacher. “I felt that I could impact students and impart my passion and joy, hopefully, as well as my passion for lifelong learning, but also the interest in opening one’s mind to other cultures,” Luzenski said.

State High junior Anna Coupland has thoroughly appreciated having Luzenski as a teacher. Her personality is what sets her apart. “I think she brings a lot of energy to class which is fun. She’s just such an enthusiastic teacher, which is good because it makes me excited about learning Spanish,” Coupland said.

Luzenski displays an activity on the whiteboard for her level 2 students to view.
(Jacob Will)

One of the biggest advantages of Luzneski’s classes are her fun activities to keep her students engaged. She is known for her “Round Robin’s.” This is a mandatory system that allows students to participate and demonstrate their Spanish skills.

Luzenski gives all of her students in class a number for the year. Then, during class, students will receive a question assigned to their number, that they must respond to in Spanish. The process is an entertaining way to make sure each student is called upon so they can all practice their Spanish equally. “I believe it’s really important to hear everyone multiple times, and that’s why I have a mandatory system. I want to hear everyone so I can see if students understand the concept and pronunciation,” Luzenski said. Following the students’ answers, Luzenski will offer feedback and move on to the next student.

She also incorporates a voluntary point system. Students can earn these points by answering extra questions, trivia questions, research activities, word searches, etc. This system mainly focuses on getting her students to feel more comfortable with Spanish. She stresses that voluntary participation always works in the students’ favor and is never detrimental to grades.

Coupland also includes how Luzenski’s teaching style makes the subject easier and more pleasant to learn. “The level of energy and movement she can bring to the classroom is definitely a big deal. Especially for Spanish because there’s so much technical grammar to learn, I think it’s very valuable that she is able to make it an exciting thing and not just something completely technical,” Coupland said.

Luzenski hopes that she has instilled an appreciation for the language in the district. She also aims for her students to be risk-takers and to go out on a ledge and communicate. Altogether, she has deeply enjoyed her time teaching. “When students can make me smile or laugh in Spanish, that’s the icing on the cake,” Luzenski said.

After retirement, she plans to spend more time with her family, read books, and travel to other countries.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Lions' Digest
$195
$550
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of State College Area High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Lions' Digest
$195
$550
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All Lions' Digest Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *