A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Donovan McKiddy

McKiddyFor many students in high school, learning a second language can be equally difficult and frustrating. However, this week's Portage Life in the Spotlight, Donovan McKiddy, makes learning Spanish a little bit easier and more entertaining.

The Portage High School Spanish teacher has been teaching a total of 12 years. However, this is the first year he is using the Apple iPad device in class to help teach the students. McKiddy uses his iPad to take attendance, give presentations, show video and audio lessons, play games with the class, and lastly, get new ideas off of Pinterest.

While many teachers at the school are now using the iPads this way in the classroom, McKiddy uses his is new and creative ways. He uses his iPad to project images onto a screen, sort of like the Elmo device does.

"The iPad can, with Apple T.V. and a projector, take whatever the camera is looking at and project it, and I can write on the document and everyone can see it on the screen," McKiddy said. "It lets me turn pages and I can zoom in and out, all on the big screen."

According to McKiddy, this method tops trying to show the class a lesson with just a book.

"Everyone can see everything, opposed to holding up a book to the class and asking if everyone can see it, when they really can't," McKiddy said.

McKiddy believes using his iPad to help the class learn helps the kids to focus.

"Sometimes you tell a student to take out their book and go to a page, and there's a disconnect that happens," McKiddy said. "If I can just say 'stay on this page of the textbook but look up here,' it doesn't break their concentration, it's right there in front of them it. It helps make the learning process a little smoother and faster."

However, McKiddy uses many techniques to help the class learn, aside from the iPads. He believes one of the best ways to be successful as a language teacher is to establish trust between the student and teacher.

"If students don't feel safe, they're less likely to step out of their comfort zone and say new words in a new language that they may make mistakes on," McKiddy said. "We try to foster this environment that it is okay to make mistakes. We all make mistakes, it's what we learn from, it's how we learn a language."

According to McKiddy, the reason he wanted to teach Spanish in the first place is because he had inspirational Spanish teachers when he was in high school.

"They were passionate about what they did, they were knowledgeable, and I trusted them," McKiddy said. "I wanted to be like them."

However, McKiddy originally did not plan on becoming a teacher.

"I wanted to be a physical therapist in college and earn lots of money," McKiddy said. "But I wasn't very interested in it. I had a knack for Spanish and I liked helping people so I came back to it."

McKiddy's favorite part about being a teacher is the 'light bulb moment' a child experiences when he or she finally understands a lesson.

"It happens when you're helping a kid who doesn't quite understand something, then all of a sudden something you say or some activity you do makes the light bulb turn on, and they're like 'Oh, I get it,' and that's a wonderful thing," he said.

Because this is the first year that Spanish III and IV are being offered as dual credit classes, McKiddy has a lot of high hopes for the course.

"I'm hoping to be successful, help students gain knowledge and earn college credits, and have a good transcript to start with in college," McKiddy said. "And I want to start a love of learning of Spanish language and culture the way my teachers did for me."

According to McKiddy, the chance he had to travel to Mexico and Spain helped him improve his skills as a teacher.

"Knowing a language is one thing, but knowing how a language is used in a real life setting when you're immersed in that culture makes the students educational experience more authentic," McKiddy said. "Even if they're [students] not in the Spanish speaking country, my experience will help them."

Ultimately, McKiddy hopes to continue his year being the best teacher that he can be while still making sure the students have a little fun.

"I'm trying my best over here, and we're going to continue doing our very best and having a good time," McKiddy said.