Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Friends Select Student News Media

The Falcon

Silvia Hortelano-Pelaez: Speaking Spanish, Shooting Hoops

Silvia Hortelano-Pelaez, New Upper School Spanish Teacher

Silvia Hortelano-Pelaez, the newest US Spanish Teacher, was born in Gijón, Spain, where most of her family grew up and still lives. “My city is very pretty, so I go back once or twice a year. I love the people in the city and my friends, my family,” says Silvia. She says that she has kept the same friends she’s had since high school and sees them every time she visits. One of her favorite memories of living in Spain was being able to walk on the beach with her friends, which is something she misses now that she’s in Philadelphia. 

While in Spain, Silvia was a semi-professional basketball player. She loved the sport so much that she later became a coach. It made her realize that she enjoys teaching people, even when it comes to sports. She joined a basketball team for fun just a few years ago, and expressed interest in coaching again, despite having not coached in the US. “I’m used to the little ones, so high school would be a little more challenging, but the rules are basically the same, except that here people travel with the ball more.”

Silvia plans to go back to Spain during the holidays for two weeks to celebrate Christmas. Because of the large population of Catholic people in Spain, Christmas is a very big holiday. “The different traditions in the city, every city is decorated with very beautiful lights, and everybody is shopping for gifts. We also have the Three Kings. Christmas there [Spain] goes a little longer than here [Philadelphia], but it’s all about making it with your family and friends.” Christmas and New Year’s are something Silvia greatly misses about being in Spain. “I miss eating the twelve grapes, and then you party all night with your friends,” she explains.

Before coming to Friends Select, Silvia was an elementary school teacher in Spain and then worked at a Philadelphia magnet school for 5 years. She says she was very excited to get her first job because in Spain you have to take a really difficult exam to become a teacher that takes quite a few years to prepare for. The students at her last school were incredibly nice and wrote her a card when she left that made her cry when she read it, “because I knew the students for 5 years so you really create connections and good relationships with them. And I just didn’t realize how strong it was until the end when everybody felt sorry because I was leaving but they understood.” 

 Silvia heard about the job at Friends Select through Maureen Chilinskas, Director of Library Services, a close family friend of Silvia. Maureen says, “My good friend Silvia is the kind of person who makes you feel comfortable as soon as you meet her. She’s funny, stylish, intelligent, and kind. And she knows a ton about music from the 1960s. Students are fortunate to have her as their Spanish teacher. I’m so glad she’s part of our community!” 

Despite only being at Friends Select for a short amount of time, Silvia has positive things to say about the school and community. “Everyone’s been treating me like I belong here. And the teachers come and say ‘Do you need anything?’ Every day someone checks in on me to see if everything is good. And also there’s a sense of community with the students that I really like.” She specifically mentioned admiring Social Justice Week and how involved the school is in social justice: “It’s like the school is preparing you to become an active citizen when you leave, and creating all that background so you can use it in the future.” 

Silvia teaches Spanish because she loves the language and the culture. She loves being able to teach the traditions of Spain and Latin American countries, “and to spike that curiosity in the students that may be in their futures will want to go to a Spanish-speaking country and do a job there, work there, or go to college there. It opens your mind.”  She firmly believes in the importance of learning other languages to expand your horizons and gain more opportunities and experiences. “[Spanish is] one of the most spoken languages in the world so it’s gonna give you a lot of opportunities to meet people that otherwise you wouldn’t have had a conversation with and get involved in their culture if you go to another country.”

Specifically, Silvia is looking forward to becoming a part of the community and getting to know her students. She greatly admires the leadership roles the students take on, saying “I feel like the students are leaders in this school which is something that is good…become a leader and then your teachers are there to support you but you are really the leaders of the school.” She loved participating in Spirit Week, matching with Maria Fernanda Marquez, an Upper School Spanish Teacher, on Matching Monday, saying how it built up that sense of community, seeing everyone wearing the themed clothes.  

Silvia currently shares her classroom with Maria and it is going great so far. Maria says, “Silvia is a great addition to FSS and the World Language Department. I have enjoyed very much getting to know her and working closely with her. She has a lot of experience teaching and I admire her engaging lesson plans and fun activities. She has already shared with me a handful of helpful resources that I plan to use in my classes. I am excited to be her colleague and classroommate. I look forward to working with her and developing the Spanish curriculum!”

In terms of her teaching style, Silvia believes it is essential to speak as much as you can in Spanish in her class. She acknowledges that it is harder for Spanish 1 students to do so, but it helps to build the skills. Silvia also talked about how important it is to learn the culture behind the language, “When we talk about culture in class… We did this project where students were cooking and creating things for the Spanish class to bring them and share them. And that was one of my favorite parts, you can learn about the culture, talk about the culture in Spanish, and share the culture.”

Silvia finds it very important to get to know her students, especially her 9th-grade advisory. “I think my advisory is 11 students. I love [advisory] because that’s when I really get to know all the students and we talk about things they are having trouble with or things they are happy about, not always sad things, not always things that are positive, she explains. “It’s their first year… and it’s my first year so we’re both learning together. When you are new they assign you the ninth graders and then you juggle with the ninth graders the whole high school experience. I’m looking forward to that. You really create a good foundation with your students, it’s like they become your family.”

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