Doing My Job

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May 9, 2005 // UPDATED 1:54 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Jeremy Stratton
Jeremy Stratton

"Vamos! Vamos!" shouted Melissa Melnick over the wind and 30 chattering high school teens assembled outside the Inter-District Downtown School, 10 S. 10th St., where she teaches Spanish.

"Hace frio?" Melnick asked one student, hugging her shoulders with a mock shiver. It was chilly out; one boy in the back hid his arms beneath his sweatshirt as he talked with his friends - in English.

"Estas escribiendo?" Melnick asked to gain the attention of the distracted student.

"Yeah, I'm writing, I'm writing," he answered, although he clearly was not.

"Listo?" she asked the group. They were ready and followed her down South 10th Street.

Melnick led her class on a mid-morning tour of the blocks around the school. She paused to ask questions and point out examples of nouns and verbs in Spanish.

"What's fun for me is to give students a base," Melnick said. "There's a limited amount we can do in the classroom."

Melnick said she is planning to take some students to Mexico or Costa Rica, as well as to Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji.

Melnick said it's also fun to see students learn another culture through the language. And with the city's rising Hispanic population, the culture is only a field trip away, at Mercado Central on Bloomington Avenue & Lake Street, for instance.

"It's exciting to know students actually use what they learn in class."

Some teenagers seemed to be learning more than others. One girl was busy filling a page with Spanish terms, while others trailed at the back of the line, goofing off in their native English.

Melnick waited patiently at the corner of Hennepin Avenue, where she wrote "la esquina" (corner) on a small dry-erase board and held it above her head. She proceeded to sketch the intersection, explaining the elements in Spanish before leading her class across the busy avenue.

"Cruzamos la calle!" she yelled back as she and her class crossed the street. "Vamos!"