Tuesday was a big day for Pacelli Catholic High School (PCHS) Spanish language teacher Catalina Cabello as she was honored with the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Education. Presented at the Portage County Business Council’s Creative Excellence Awards Breakfast, Cabello was recognized for her innovation and creativity in bringing foreign language learning alive for her students.
Throughout her 5 years at PCHS, Cabello has taken her students beyond just learning the language, seeking to expand their knowledge of Hispanic and Latin cultures through special projects, like creating their own alebrijes, brightly colored folk art statues.
“Through these projects students experience the cultures of different countries, learn vocabulary that they might not encounter in class, practice their Spanish speaking and writing skills and get to be creative,” said Cabello’s colleague and PCHS math teacher Laurie Schroeder. “They get excited to talk about their work and the ‘trivia’ they learned in their research.”
Students also benefit from immersive language instruction led by Cabello with trips to Madison to learn salsa and merengue dancing, ordering food in Spanish, and documenting their experiences by creating videos. Many of Cabello’s students have traveled to Spanish speaking countries, speaking fluently with natives, and continued their Spanish language studies after high school.
Cabello’s commitment doesn’t stop with her students in the classroom. She serves on the board of the Portage County Literacy Council, helping to implement strategies that promote the intellectual, cultural, and linguistic development of Latin and Hmong populations in Portage County. Cabello served as an interpreter with the public school district facilitating meetings between staff and Hispanic parents, translating school-related documents, and even coordinated “Hispanic Family Night” to promote reading at home every day. She also taught Faith Formation classes for 3rd and 5th graders at St. Bronislava Parish. Cabello is also a board member of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, Wisconsin Chapter (AATSP-WI) and is a member of the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL).
Also honored at the Creative Excellence Awards Breakfast were two Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Education runners up – Pacelli Catholic Schools computer science teacher Dana LaMotte and Pacelli Catholic Middle School 5th grade teacher Tiffany Wittmus.
Per the Portage County Business Council a total of 15 nominations were submitted for the award, 12 of them being Pacelli Catholic Schools teachers. In addition to Cabello, LaMotte, and Wittmus, other nominees included Carol Bernas, Jeff Bushman, Annabel Maas, Jenifer Meronek, Greg Miller, Ann Molski, Amy Parks, Lisa Springob, and Joe Zawacki.
Photo Credit: Portage County Business Council