As she closes the door behind a sleeping house, Marta Domínguez goes into her home office during the week at 5:30 a.m., coffee cup in hand, to prepare for her day of classes at Eddy Middle School. Even after teaching formally since 1996, she continues to spend her early mornings organizing lessons and searching for new activities to use with her students. While that hasn’t changed, other parts of her teaching career have — now, she no longer needs to leave her home and deal with morning traffic to get to her students. Since 2012, Domínguez has been teaching Spanish in a live online classroom for Proximity Learning.
Domínguez accidentally stumbled upon Proximity Learning while searching for teaching options that would allow her to stay home and take care of her young children. It was a great fit right from the start: “For me, it was a huge learning experience,” Domínguez said. “Even though I took some online classes in college, doing it and being on the other side was kind of different.”
Domínguez taught for six years in Argentina until moving to the United States. Her passion for teaching began in her childhood, where she said she must have been “one of those little girls that always [taught] and [told] everybody to do things and how to do them.”
In her online classes today, she especially enjoys being able to teach her first language, Spanish, because of how she can make a special connection with her students. By sharing her culture, she evolves her lessons from just vocabulary lists and verb conjugations.
“The previous class I sent the kids some traditional candies that we have for Christmas in Argentina and Spain,” she said. “You can teach about what people eat in Spanish-speaking countries, but another thing is [to say]: ‘Try this. This is the candy we have at the Christmas table.’ Then you can start telling stories … it’s interesting. The kids enjoy it and they ask questions.”
By engaging students with her experience growing up in Argentina, Domínguez said: “You go beyond the language and you start teaching the culture, kind of getting other people interested in what is behind the language.”
One of her favorite things about teaching online is getting to teach in different states. Not only does she get to share her culture with her students, but her students get to share their culture with her. “I got to learn a lot about Milwaukee and I got to learn a lot about Kentucky. Things I never [would have] thought without visiting those places,” she said. “In a way, you create a different connection with the students that you teach.”
When her kids started attending a private school in 2017, Domínguez received an opportunity to return to in-class teaching. While she was very happy to be teaching online, she thought she’d give it a try. “When I went back to the regular class,” she said. “I remember the first day I was teaching I was like: ‘Wow, I forgot about the photocopy machine and the lines at the photocopy machine.’ And I said: ‘Okay, can we do this online?’” After finishing the school year, she quickly returned to Proximity Learning.
“I realized … the things that we are doing at Proximity, they are fantastic,” Domínguez said. “There is nothing that is being done in the regular class that we don’t actually do here online. In certain cases we do it much better … the teaching is really focused on the students and helping them to succeed.”
At the end of the day, as Domínguez finishes her last class and closes the door to her home office, her biggest goal for her students is that they become more open-minded to learning a new language. That, at some point, it goes beyond just needing a foreign language credit and becomes a curiosity to learn more.