Pam Benitez, Spanish teacher

What is your name and your title? Pam Benitez, Spanish teacher.

Why did you begin teaching?

I actually was first studying chemistry when I was in college, and it was difficult and I thought that I wasn’t in the right major. So then, I studied abroad in Mexico because I remember that in high school, I always loved my Spanish classes. I loved studying in Mexico, and that is how I decided to study Spanish and become a Spanish teacher.

Why teach Spanish? The reason I started teaching Spanish was because of two things. One, I loved the culture in Mexico; that was really exciting to me, and I wanted to share that with my students. And then also, I think I have always liked the idea of being able to speak another language because you can communicate with people that otherwise you would not be able to. When I was in college, I also tutored Spanish, and that also taught me how to teach Spanish in a way that’s interesting. 

Best memory as a teacher? There are so many. I mean, I think my best memories here at Niles North have been working with such great students and the staff. So many different students throughout the year and great staff members. I remember at the end of my first year being really sad because then I realized like, oh my gosh, these students are going to leave and I’m going to have to meet new students in the fall. And one of the students said, “Well, that’s just the way it is, Sra.”

Spanish/Latinx song recommendations? “Un Año” – Reik y Sebastián Yatra, “Invencible” and “Nuqui” by ChocQuibTown, “Nunca es Suficiente” – Natalia LaFourcade, “Ciudad Hembra” – Alex Cuba y Kelvis Ochoa, “Todo Cambió” – Camila, “La Tierra del Olvido” – Carlos Vives. And any song by Juan Luis Guerra, such as “A Pedir Su Mano”.

What are your best tips for learning a new language? The best way once you know the basics for the language actually is to go study abroad if you are able to. Like when I went to Mexico, because you’re surrounded by the language, you’re using it so much. So that’s the best way but as far as beginners learning the language, start to learn some vocabulary and try to practice that and I think practicing speaking is really the best way to learn it.

Favorite word in Spanish and why? I kind of like the word “hipopótamo” (hippopotamus). It’s fun to say. I also like “Güacala”; it’s said in Mexico a lot and it means “yucky.”

Best teacher outfit? I tend to wear a lot of patterns- I think I’m wearing one right now. Yes. I have just a lot of blouses. With a lot of different patterns on them, then with some jeans or some pants that’s usually my go-to.

Best memory with Spanish Honor Society? Just the meetings that we have and having the officers run the meetings and doing games together. Playing “veintiuno” for example; I just really liked those meetings where we’re playing games and doing arts and crafts activities and just enjoying Spanish.

If you could travel to any place in the world right now for a week, where would you go? I would probably go to Peru because our sociedad is the “Machu Picchu” chapter, and I have never been to Machu Picchu. We’re also watching this movie in class right now about a mountain in Argentina, which is not Machu Picchu, but it’s the same idea. I would just like to go down to South America, Argentina and Peru, and to experience everything that they have to offer. 

Would you ever like to climb a mountain? I would like to climb a mountain. I read this book “Peak,” which is like a young adult novel about a boy that climbs but at the same time, I am afraid of heights. So I think I probably would never end up doing that, but I wish I were able to.

Should Pluto still be considered a planet? Yeah, I think Pluto should be considered a planet; how can they not consider it a planet after all my years taking science classes? I leave the stars and the constellations to Sra. Jacobson.