Another Trumansburg Central School District teacher has announced her retirement. Rosa Fernandez-Sopena has taught her final year of Spanish at the school district.
Fernandez-Sopena was born in Barcelona, Spain. After college, at the age of 24, she traveled around the world for the next two years. While in Switzerland, she met a wonderful young man from Camillus, NY and moved with him to the US where they lived with his parents. Rosa and Steve were married. On their honeymoon, they took a bike ride to the Finger Lakes and wound up in Trumansburg where they fell in love with the area. They moved to Albany for a few years, finally settling in Trumansburg where Rosa was hired to teach Spanish at Charles O. Dickerson High School after completing her certification degree at Empire State College. Rosa and Steve have an adult daughter, Audrey.
Rosa has been a member of the school district faculty for 22 years. Later in her career, she also taught Spanish at Trumansburg Middle School for six years. Rosa also took a few years off to care for her ill mother in the middle of her tenure. “Teaching in the middle school gave me a lot of experience as an educator at both levels. It was very helpful to me and very nice to teach both high school and middle school students. It was a great experience,” she said.
The creation of Spanish Club was a pet project for Rosa. Many times, she organized community service trips to places like Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica where she and her students helped to build schools, paint buildings, make shelves, and complete repair projects to help the local communities. “It was a wonderful, amazing experience and broadened my students’ views of the world,” Rosa remembered. “My students got to practice their language skills and be involved with other cultures whose people see things differently than we do. These trips have given me a lot of joy. They were hard to organize by myself every other year or so, but we made seven trips to various countries. Last year, my level four students had a wonderful trip to Mexico where we built a one-room school with a group of Chiapas. It was made of mud and grass. It was an amazing experience.” At first, participants of the trips stayed with local families, but, later, Rosa and her students lived in little houses at a sanctuary or hacienda or hostels located more in the community where they were able to go bird watching or on jungle trips.
In 2005, Rosa also became the advisor for Model UN (United Nations Club). She and her students learned so much role playing and researching topics. Students would choose a topic and represent their chosen country in a debate with other high school students, using critical thinking and, then, reaching a resolution. She worked with Emanuel Cestero for a few years advising Model UN. It took a lot of work to adequately research topics, but was very rewarding.
Retiring this soon was actually not on Rosa’s mind and she thought she might wait until she was 65. However, she would like to pursue mindfulness activities and for that and family reasons, decided that she wanted more time for herself now. Rosa would like to travel. While she typically goes to Spain every year, it was not in the cards this year due to the pandemic. Rosa would like to visit England and practice meditation yoga in India. She would like to travel to South America, especially Peru, and to El Salvador where her father was born. “When the situation is good enough, I will go,” she said. “I have cousins there. I have their names and want to see who I can find. I would also like Audrey to accompany me.”
Online teaching has been quite a challenge. It was overwhelming at first and took more time getting feedback from her students. Rosa would talk to her students a lot and it was always good to connect one on one with them. She found it harder to teach this way and more challenging. She taught three times a week, but some of the students would not show up. It was challenging because the time was more flexible. While technology has a lot of resources, nothing is like being with her students in school.
“I will miss most of it – the connections with my colleagues and students. I made great friends who have been very supportive. We help each other. My colleagues are my friends,” Rosa said.
“Students are honest and let you know things which keeps me on my toes. They are knowledgeable and I’ve learned a lot from them. It has been a good time. I would sing with them and made it a requirement. If you can talk, you can sing,” she said. “Some students were more self-conscious than others, so I would make up a rap song about them. We had so much fun. The kids would add their ideas.” Rosa also liked the Day of the Dead celebration because she and her students would do crafts, eat bread of the dead (sweet breads), and celebrate the lives of relatives and friends who had passed away. It gave a new dimension to the relatives who had passed into another life. They always made a big deal about Spanish celebrations and the students would write about family that they admired.
Rosa Fernandez-Sopena has learned so much from working at Trumansburg and has a great amount of appreciation for the administration who supported the trips she organized and the activities she wanted to do with her students. “I could do what I wanted while following the curriculum and could follow new methods as I wanted. Working with my colleagues was a joy. It will be sad to leave my students because they were wonderful, honest, and found humor in many things. I laughed a lot, learned so much, and had many experiences that I gained in confidence. I may sub, but am not sure yet. It depends on how things go, but it is not out of my mind.”