Emily Merckx

Elementary Spanish Mentor Program
Norman High School
Mentees: Lincoln Elementary School fourth-graders
Years Matched: Three

Norman High School seniors Juliana Guisti Cavallin and Emily Merckx (above) are the honored mentors for their school’s Elementary Spanish Mentor Program.

For the past three years, they have been teaching Spanish once each week – before their school day begins – to fourth graders at Lincoln Elementary School. They work in collaboration with Lincoln Elementary teacher Emily Stein and Norman High Spanish teacher and program founder Darcy Pippins. Cavallin and Merckx were students in Pippins’ Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture class a few years ago and have continued to volunteer for the Spanish mentoring program even though they are no longer enrolled in Spanish.

“The students and Ms. Stein LOVE them,” Pippins said. “Juliana and Emily are both very dependable, creative and motivated young ladies. They never miss an opportunity to teach these kids. They understand the importance of being prompt, consistent and engaging when teaching. Hopefully, one or both will consider teaching as a future profession.”

Cavallin is from Venezuela and loves sharing her native language and culture with others. Merckx has relatives who speak Spanish and is motivated to learn Spanish so she can better communicate with her family members. Cavallin and Merckx often teach Spanish to the fourth graders using words in context of a story. They also play language and vocabulary games and teach students culture lessons in Spanish.

“They’re teaching Spanish to fourth-graders who would otherwise not be exposed to another language,” Pippins said, noting that Cavallin and Merckx are 

About the program: Norman High School’s Elementary Spanish Mentoring Program is a school-based, peer mentoring program that assigns upper level Spanish language students to local elementary students. The volunteers teach for 30 minutes each week and are responsible for their own lesson plans. among the first to volunteer for the program at the beginning of each school year. “They are advocating for world language education and gaining a different perspective as teachers. They have impacted the learning of over 75 fourth graders. They are a great team!”

The program earned the 2016 Global Engagement Award from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language.