Kate Heaney spent the last year and a half teaching English in Spain and now she’s back to her old stomping grounds to teach Spanish.
At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, Mary Beaton, a long time Spanish teacher here at Oyster River High School, retired. The school sought someone to take her place, and Heaney was perfect for that role! Heaney always knew that she wanted to be a teacher, but even through her undergrad she never knew what she was going to teach. So, she double majored in English and Spanish and then went to grad school to get her master’s in teaching. She did her student teaching hours here at ORHS and really enjoyed her time in the classroom. Now, after teaching English for a year and a half, she’s taking on Spanish.
During her time at UNH, Heaney spent 5 months studying abroad in Granada, Spain and fell in love with the culture. “It’s just so different from here. It’s much more relaxed and less rushed.”
After graduating from her undergraduate program, she decided to stay at UNH to finish her master’s in teaching. Heaney had known since her semester abroad that she wanted to eventually go back to Spain and she “knew that [she] wanted to take a break from school before going into real life.” During that time, she found out about something called the Fulbright Fellowship, a program that gave her the opportunity to go back to Spain this time to teach English in Gijón.
Heaney worked hard on her application with the help from a woman at UNH who specialized in helping students apply for grants and thought she had a good chance at getting the position, but that didn’t eliminate the nerves. As soon as she found out that she got the job, she called one of her best friends who had already found out they were going to Spain for the next year. Her best friend was stoked and then asked how her parents felt about her heading off to Europe for the year. That’s when Heaney realized she should probably tell her parents.
Coincidentally, Heaney finished grad school during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic and was supposed to be heading to Spain for the 2020-2021 school year. Instead, her full year position turned into just what would be second semester. She shared that, “when the grant got cut short, I was initially pretty disappointed, but then I was more relieved that it wasn’t canceled all together than anything else.” Finally, she ventured off to Spain and as expected fell back in love with everything about it.
Due to the pandemic shortening her original year, she found out sometime around March she was able to stay in Spain for the next year. She was “content to be there at all.”
After spending 18 months immersed in the culture, Heaney found herself thinking about whether she could see herself moving to Spain more permanently. While she loved it and thought it would be amazing, she kept getting caught on the fact that “high school is a little bit different there. It starts in seventh grade, so they go seventh grade to tenth grade and at tenth grade they either decide to keep studying or to just be done.” She didn’t really love that idea and so she decided it was time to come home for a while.
“It was so interesting because in the US I teach English as English and Spanish as a foreign language and so getting to teach English as a foreign language was a really cool way to blend the two of them,” Heaney shared about the experience of teaching the language she had grown up speaking as a foreign language to these students.
Heaney had done her Ed-500 training here at ORHS, which is when undergraduate students are able to spend time in a classroom to observe what it is like to teach students and be a part of their classroom communities in a supervisor/ educator role. So, when she saw the job posted with an opportunity to return to area, she thought it would be worth applying. She went through the interview process and was extremely grateful that she was offered the position.
Now a few weeks into the school year, Heaney is loving her time teaching. She really enjoys getting to know the students and helping them further their academic careers, and her students seem to be enjoying her classes as well. Bella Smith (’26) is in Heaney’s Spanish 3 class, and said, “her interactive teaching style helps make sure that class isn’t boring. I am excited to see what [else] we do this year.”
Outside of the teaching aspect of the job, Heaney is loving getting to know her students especially those in her advisory. She has a freshman advisory this year which she really likes because she feels like they are all getting to see the school from a new perspective and “it’s cool to experience that along with them.”
So far Heaney’s advisory has played lots of Uno and various other games, and she says she is “looking forward to spirit week and getting to see how my advisory acts along with the rest of their peers!” One of her advisees, Laura Boughton (’26), shared, “she is a great advisor because she understands that we need a break from the academic part of the day,” and that she enjoys having an adviser that is young and wants to have fun and connect with her students.
“I am really looking forward to everything that is to come in my time here at Oyster River!” shared Heaney.
– Delaney Nadeau