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Zulma Castaneda, Freedom Academy, Charter schools

Zulma Castaneda
Zulma Castaneda

Zulma Castaneda has no doubt that teaching is where she belongs. No matter what the age of her students, Castaneda said her passion is being at the head of a classroom.

The Freedom Academy Spanish teacher in Provo has a master's degree from Yale and is a former professor at University of California-Davis. But she said her true love has been teaching elementary school students in a flexible charter school environment.

She said teaching children a language is a special experience, because not only do they learn the quickest, but she is able to open a new world to them.

Castaneda doesn't just follow one textbook. She creates her own curriculum from a number of resources to match the chemistry of each individual classroom — she also teaches classes before and after school.

"That requires a lot of work and dedication and sometimes long hours, but that's fine, because when I see students actually communicating it makes it worth it," Castaneda said. "It's both a professional challenge and intellectual challenge —it's an unlimited field."

She uses culture as conduit to learning, exposing students to role playing, elections, songs, games and riddles to get them engaged.

"The best way to learn a language is having fun," Castaneda said.