By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator  

In Tweety Bachemin’s upstairs classroom at Holy Ghost School in Hammond, you’ll find paint-splattered curtains, color charts, paints and brushes and model clay.  

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Sixth-grade students at Holy Ghost School in Hammond learn Spanish and art in a new curriculum called SpARTish.  Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator 

 

You’ll also find the alphabet letters, lined up along a wall, with the Spanish names next to them; colors identified in Spanish; and Spanish prayers posted on the wall. This is SpARTish, a class, or clash, of art and Spanish and the students seem to love it.  

“I like how we get to do art but still we learn stuff, and we don’t have to take notes,” said sixth-grader Sophia Castillo.  

“I really like it because we learn stuff,” said fellow sixth-grader Benjamin Smith. “It’s easier to learn things because we’re doing things like making stuff, and it helps us remember what the words mean. She gives us examples of how to remember things.”  

Bachemin, a professional artist and art teacher, reluctantly learned Spanish growing up from her Puerto Rican mother, Juanita Young. Bachemin, embarrassed when her mother spoke in her native tongue, said her mother often chided her, saying, “You’re going to thank me when you’re older.”  

That didn’t take long. During her high school years, Bachemin was working at a restaurant when a woman walked in crying and speaking only in Spanish. A co-worker knew Bachemin spoke Spanish and suggested she talk with the upset woman, a moment that still brings Bachemin to tears.  

“She told me that her family hadn’t eaten in a week and she was begging for food to feed them, and I’ll never forget being so thankful that I could speak Spanish,” she said. “I tell the kids this story and they think I made it up. So, I try to explain to them that Spanish isn’t just another subject, like this is another way for us to be helpful to people who may really need us.”  

With her mind focused on pursuing a fine arts degree, Bachemin chose Spanish as her minor. The two curriculums did not meet until this year when Holy Ghost School was searching for a Spanish teacher and an art teacher for fourth-eighth grades; thus, SpARTish. The name was the brainstorm of Bachemin’s 10-year-old daughter Ella Bachemin, who is in fifth grade at Holy Ghost.  

“We didn’t expect it to be so catchy,” smiles Tweety Bachemin. “The kids that aren’t in my class yet are like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to take SpARTish!’ It’s definitely SpARTish – not just Spanish or art.”  

For this class, sixth-grade students are building models of monsters out of clay with at least 10 body parts labeled in Spanish and English. While learning the language, students are also learning “proper ceramic techniques of assembling and constructing their own designs.”  

“I like it because we get to express our creativity and show how talented we are,” said Bryn Beard.  

“I like that we don’t have to take notes and we can make sculptures to help us figure out how to say the words in Spanish,” said classmate Brennan Fugarino.  

“This class helps us learn more and helps us understand how to do things because she explains it,” said sixth-grader Jade Thiel.  

Bachemin said the class is also helping students bridge the communication gap with the Hispanic members of the community, with many using the Spanish they’ve already learned in class. Learning prayers in Spanish is also giving the children another way of talking to God, especially when the interpretations are “a little different and they’re like, ‘I never thought of it that way.’ ”  

“I was walking by the prayer garden and I heard ‘Madre de Dios,’ which means Mother of God, and I looked up and there was the statue of Mary in front of me and I felt like God said, ‘Look up and honor my mother,’ ” recalled Bachemin. “And, I told the kids that you may hear from God in many languages because he created them all.”  

It’s definitely a new way to look at language, in all shapes, colors and forms, and that is SpARTish.