2020 LFLTA Teacher of the Year Nominees
Juan Alvarez grew up in Canutillo, Texas, a predominant Spanish speaking community north of El Paso. His older sister was a life long teacher in the same community and Juan knew that he would one day follow in her footsteps. A bit of irony is that Juan is the last person in the world his family expected to become a language teacher, as a child, he had a severe speech impediment.
Juan is a passionate Spanish teacher at Ascension Episcopal School. At his first faculty meeting his passion was such that he convinced his colleagues that he did not speak English. Before moving to Ascension, Juan taught at Benton High School in Benton, Louisiana. Juan teaches Spanish 1 through Spanish AP at Ascension. He loves piquing the student’s interest in the language and culture so that so that they become life long learners. He always strives to finds opportunities for his students to use the language outside of the classroom. He instituted a Spanish film program at Benton High School so that students could write a script and produce a film in Spanish. This enabled the students to use the language and interact with native speakers.Juan is always willing to share his success and ideas with other educators. He has presented several times at LFLTA conferences. At the 2015 LFLTA Conference he was selected “Best of Louisiana.” He went on to present at SCOLT in 2016. Juan spends his free time traveling with wife Juana, “Ana” and his three grandsons. Juan also collaborates with his former students in producing short films for the Louisiana Film Prize every summer.
Halinka Nowak has been teaching German, French, and later Italian at Caddo Magnet High School in Shreveport, LA, since 1986. She grew up in French speaking Belgium along with four siblings. Her father was from Poland and her mother is from the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. She and her family traveled to various European countries to visit relatives and discover new places. For Halinka, being in surroundings where the language and culture other than French was comfortable, normal, and exciting. She studied Latin, ancient Greek, Dutch, and English while in junior high and high school . She attended a CEMEA training for holiday camp counselors and worked as counselor and later director of summer
camps in Belgium and France. She graduated with a teaching degree in English, Dutch, and Economics from the Institut Supérieur Pédagogique in Liège, Belgium, in 1980. She came to Louisiana as a CODOFIL teacher that same year, which allowed her to combine her love of language and culture and the need to make a living. CODOFIL sent her to Shreveport, where she has been ever since 1980. She continued her studies until 2006 to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in French and German at Centenary College, a Master’s degree in Liberal Arts with emphasis on French and German from LSU-S, and classes at the Universitéde Louvain and the Université de Mons, both in Belgium, Centenary College, LSU-S, and the University of Houston to complete her LA certification in French, German, and Italian. Her teaching adventures have taken her to Youree Drive Middle School, Ridgewood Middle School, Caddo Middle Magnet, the Montessori School for Shreveport, Shreveport Country Day, and finally Caddo Magnet High School. She also taught evening French classes for the Caddo Parish School Board Continuing Education Program, the Women’s Department Club, and Centenary College. From 1989 until 1997 she also organized two concurrent exchange programs, one with a German high school in Gütersloh, then Berlin, through the GAPP program, and one with a French high school in Châteauroux. She developed skills as a travel agent, excursion planner, school schedule organizer, family and student matchmaker. In the process, she smoothed bumps of all kinds and reveled in the experience she and her students lived both abroad and at Caddo Magnet High School. She and her students now reach out to the world the Internet has opened to them. Her teaching philosophy reflects her many experiences interacting with students aged three to eighty-five in various classroom settings. She loves to create linguistic and sometimes quirky activities featuring her own students, the culture of the area, and the culture of the world at large. She has also been sponsoring the Caddo Magnet High School German, Italian, and French Club for several years. Traveling, cooking “real food”, as she tells her students, reading, attending language conferences, and exploring the news websites of various countries are some of her after school time. Her family
includes a husband, a daughter, and her dogs Lucy and Archie, all kind, patient, and talented.