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Hispanic Heritage Month: Two Omaha educators build bridge between their schools through pen pal program

Posted at 7:33 PM, Sep 29, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — For National Hispanic Heritage Month, two Spanish language teachers in Omaha have a goal: to build a bridge between their schools — and they are doing it with snail mail.

Amanda Pritchard and Alli Fox go way back. They are friends from college who became teachers. Pritchard teaches AP Spanish at Marian High School and wanted to find a way to teach more conversation skills while Fox teaches Spanish speakers at Spring Lake Magnet.

"As a teacher, you're always looking to find ways to motivate your students, especially in writing, it's not always their favorite," Alli Fox said.

Both wanted to find a way to bring these worlds together, so they thought exchanging letters would be a creative way to do so.

"Everything in a language just clicks or sinks in or means more when there's another person involved — when you're immersed in it or you know someone by name," Pritchard said.

Students from Spring Lake and Marian get paired together as pen pals about once a month. They write in Spanish to each other and share about themselves and their interests.

The letters can range from serious to sweet.

"On the second letter from my pen pal he sent me a photo of his dog and she was so cute and it was awesome, she was so sweet," Marian senior Elizabeth Foreman said.

At Spring Lake Magnet, students Zoe Hofsommer and Diego are Spanish speakers who speak the language at home. Both are happy to reclaim the lost art of letter writing.

"It helps me write in Spanish more better so I know more words in Spanish," Zoe Hofsommer said.

"You gotta write it with a pencil, that's what makes it fun," Diego said.

Both Pritchard and Fox are looking at the bigger picture and are grateful their students have the chance to expand their worldviews.

Foreman says she didn't have experience in South Omaha before.

"Seeing everywhere both languages, it's completely normal being bilingual, which I find so cool because I'm not a heritage speaker," Foreman said.

"These were definitely two different parts of the Omaha community that we didn't think would ever cross over. They have such different lived experiences," Fox said.

It's proving the lessons will resonate beyond the classroom.

"When it comes to starting a conversation, I don't think you should let age or language or anything else stop you. You never know what you could learn from someone," Marian senior Regina Anyaegbunam said.

The program has been around for six years. The students will also meet in person to practice their conversation skills.

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