At any given time during the day, third-grade teacher Lauren Carranza (THE ’05) might be explaining a lesson in English, but answering a question in Spanish. That’s the culture of Denver’s Escuela de Guadalupe, a unique kindergarten through fifth grade dual-language program that stresses the importance of retaining native languages while studying new ones. “We always say we are learning a new language,” she explains. “We never say, ‘I don’t speak English or Spanish.’” A non-native Spanish speaker herself, Carranza learns from her students as much as she teaches them. “The kids correct me all the time in Spanish,” she laughs.
While at DePaul, Carranza took two years of Spanish in addition to her studies at The Theatre School. After graduation, she found herself in Honduras, working at Teatro la Fragua, a theatre run by Jesuit priest Jack Warner (MFA ’78). “I was the only English speaker there besides [Father Warner],” she remembers. “I learned a lot really fast.” It was at Teatro la Fragua that Carranza developed a passion for teaching. “I found that teaching was actually more of what I wanted to do, but theatre led me to it,” she says.
When she returned to the U.S. after spending more than a year in Honduras, her passion for the Spanish language landed her a job at Escuela de Guadalupe, where she has been teaching for the last seven years. “I’m a good model for the kids because I’ve learned a second language,” says Carranza. “I know how much of a struggle it was to get food on my plate or get a ride to work every day in Honduras. I understand both the parents and the kids because I know how hard it is.”
Today, Carranza uses many skills she mastered at The Theatre School in her classroom. “I constantly have the kids use voices and visualizing techniques,” she says. Additionally, she credits her ability to think outside the box to her time at DePaul. “Every single day something comes up where I can’t go by the book, but I have to deal with it,” she explains. “[At The Theatre School,] I learned that you do not need to do something the way that it’s written … there are rules, but you can do anything you can think of.” Carranza’s efforts earned her a CenturyLink Leadership in Education Award in March 2013. The award, which came with a $1,000 gift to the school, was especially meaningful because she was nominated by her students’ parents and her peers. “With theatre, you get to stand up and get applause and awards, but you don’t get that with kids,” she says. “It’s incredibly validating to know I am on the right track.”
Carranza stays the course by remembering two things: “All shall be well” and “Be content where you are, but always look for progress.” That way, her teaching methods remain fresh, and she remains energized for the work ahead. “I’m proud of our school,” she enthuses. “We worked hard to develop a respectful and dignified program. It’s a unique place that’s making great strides with different communities. It’s a good start to a young person’s legacy.”