As a Spanish teacher at Holy Cross High School, Caroline Mejia is addressing literacy in two languages.
Mejia identified a significant and growing population in Northern Kentucky and in her classes – heritage Spanish speakers.
These students have learned Spanish informally at home due to one or both parents having immigrated from a Spanish-speaking country but have yet to formally study the language. She believes teaching the language is not enough – the curriculum must be rooted in understanding the cultures, histories and challenges of the many diverse peoples who speak the language.
Because of her efforts, Mejia has been selected as the Mary Ann Mongan Literacy Award recipient from the Kenton County Public Library Foundation. Mejia will receive a trophy and a $250 check; her name will be on a plaque at the library’s administration center. Since 2009, the Mary Ann Mongan Award has recognized an individual or organization that has shown outstanding service in literacy in Kenton County.
In Mejia’s class, the students expand their vocabularies and gain confidence in their command of written and spoken Spanish. But the curriculum goes beyond that. They are required to read literature written by renowned Latin American authors in both English and Spanish, which allows them to increase their understanding of the nuances of both languages.
When she created the class, Holy Cross did not own the books required for this approach, nor did they have the budget to buy them. Mejia undertook a crowd-sourcing campaign and raised money to purchase the books in both Spanish and English.
Mejia is also committed to her development to maximize her effectiveness.
She was awarded a Fulbright-Hayes scholarship to study at Columbia in the summer of 2022. She also applied to Thomas More University for her credentials to be recognized as a Spanish instructor so that her advanced students can receive college credit upon completing her courses.