Meet Kenny—a Bilingual Education Assistant & Social Worker at Worthington Schools, a K-12 public school district in Ohio.
Learning languages provides an essential foundation for social and intellectual development, as well as life-changing experiences and opportunities.
Languages: English, Spanish, French & Portuguese
Grew Up In: Worthington, Ohio
College & Majors/Minors:
- The Ohio State University – Dual degrees: BSBA in International Business and BA in Spanish; minor in International Studies
- Sciences Po Paris (France) – Master of Public Administration, specialization in Human Development, Human Rights, and Economic Sustainability
- Bachelor's degree – Tec de Monterrey (Mexico)
- Master's degree – Capstone Project (South Africa); Field Research (China and Singapore)
Additional Training or Certifications:
- Sorbonne French Language Certificate (Paris)
- Alliance Française French Language Certificate (Bordeaux)
- Rio & Learn Portuguese Language Certificate (Rio de Janeiro, Summer 2022)
How do you use your language skills in your work/career?
I lived and worked abroad for 20 years, as a management consultant and community outreach volunteer, throughout Latin America, Western Europe, East Asia, and South Africa. Spanish and French were my primary languages spoken while at work. Two years ago, I returned to the U.S. to pursue a career in education. I am very happy and fortunate to be giving back to my hometown of Worthington, Ohio. I’m in my second year as a Bilingual Education Assistant and social worker for my local public school district. I support emergent English, immigrant students, and their families.
My fluency in Spanish is essential to the support I provide (comprising more than 50% of my daily interactions). I co-teach six classes of history, math, and science at our two high schools. I work with our school psychologists and mental health specialists about emotional development and mental health crises. I work with school counselors and families to ensure our at-risk students graduate. I interpret for parent/teacher conferences, disciplinary hearings, and a myriad of other activities across the district. I translate documents for teachers, families, and leadership. I help to program and coordinate community outreach efforts, establishing relationships with non-profit organizations, while providing socioeconomic relief to our students and families. Every day offers new adventures and connections in education, community welfare, and social development.
What is the biggest misconception Americans have about learning languages?
I’m happy to share that my ongoing dedication to learning languages (while immersing myself directly in the local culture) is at the foundation of every professional and social opportunity that I’ve undertaken. Honestly, I’ve been so immersed in the Spanish language and Latin American culture since the age of 16 (and subsequently the French language and global culture), that I really don’t encounter many misconceptions about learning languages from Americans in the U.S.—just a lot of curiosity, interest, and engagement.
Although not so much a misconception, what does come to mind, rather, is a misallocation of resources and academic focus. I believe that all students should be empowered and inspired to learn and formally immerse themselves in a world language, as early as preschool. Whether integrated directly into the core curriculum requirements or facilitated as an extracurricular activity, learning languages provides an essential foundation for social and intellectual development, as well as life-changing experiences and opportunities.
Do you have an interesting, moving, or humorous anecdote featuring your language skills to share?
In 2014-2016, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mexico, teaching English to local communities and business professionals. I also advised the National Center for Research in Mathematics, in project management and technology transfer. One of my secondary projects included co-producing a music, arts, and eco-sustainability festival (and workshops) for a local community.
Stepping back into the present, despite all we do to support our immigrant students and families at Worthington Schools, naturally it’s impossible to serve everyone at the same level, with such a diverse and multilingual community. (Over 1,500 students live in homes where languages other than English are spoken.) Currently, my biggest disservice is to my Brazilian students. In fact, the number of native Portuguese speakers has grown by 337% in the last four years. In response, I’ve decided to spend my entire two-month summer break (2022) in Rio de Janeiro, studying Portuguese (eight hours daily) and immersing myself fully in Brazilian culture. I’m so excited to return to school next year and provide an advanced level of Portuguese support to our growing Brazilian community.
Check out our Connect with French, Portuguese, or Spanish pages—or explore another language of your choosing—for information about university programs, scholarship opportunities, testimonials, and more!
Then tell us how you put your language skills to work @LangConnectsFdn on social media.