ACE logo

Teachers as Translators: Lighting a Fire

Friday, August 11, 2017 by Luke Janicki - ACE 22, Peoria


ACE Teaching Fellows graduate Luke Janicki (ACE 22 - Peoria) offers a two-part reflection on his experiences in the classroom and how he used his Spanish speaking skills to create connections in the broader school community. Part two is below and part one is titled, "Teachers as Translators: Doing the Unexpected".

ACE 22 Luke Janicki PeoriaAll summer long, ACE teachers form conceptions of how dynamic and resourceful the master teacher is. The master teacher juggles quality classroom instruction and behavior management, they diffuse any conflict with all constituents involved leaving as friends, and they regularly dispense moral wisdom in the form of spontaneous admonitions and ponderous sticky-notes.

While it is not the case that these examples are untrue or that they do not happen (they do!), they are not nearly as frequent nor as memorable as the many moments when the teacher is forced to do something unexpected. Teachers are not teachers. They are, to borrow a Raconteurs song title, consolers of the lonely.

Halfway through discussions about behavior incidents at the previous school, both mother and daughter are sobbing messily. I am trying to listen for important details amidst tears, trying to convey facts of past situations to Dr. Dillon in English as well as dates and figures to the family in Spanish that will help them to begin attending our school as soon as possible (it turns out the daughter has three younger siblings), and all the while, I am struggling with this internal conflict of wanting to give emotional support while at the same time wanting the family not to even notice me there. I feel intrusive, but I also know I am needed. I sit and try to listen. I communicate as best I can knowing that this in turn will settle my emotional appeals.

"I am also recognizing a little fire lit inside of me..."

When I leave Dr. Dillon's office to head back up to my classroom, I am thinking that it went relatively well. I am realizing that it was not at all about me – that's for sure. I am also recognizing a little fire lit inside of me with the semblance of the one I was picturing in my classroom this morning. Something about it is different, though.

Over the next year and a half, there were many instances such as this one from making phone calls to translating for a large-scale tuition assistance and fundraising meeting to chatting with students’ parents after school. Most of the time, I think I was just happy to be doing something that I'd proved I was fairly good at. I was never truly convinced of my efficacy as a teacher in the classroom. If I ever was, it was only for fleeting moments soon to be overwritten by adolescent girls hurling vicious words at each other, or tears of supplication hitting my desk (“Why did I get a C- on my Spanish test?”), or someone getting stuck inside of a locker. As a translator, though, in Dr. Dillon's office or elsewhere, I knew that I was at least providing some provisional comfort that could lead to something lasting by helping someone understand someone else a little more clearly.

I’d be a fool to think that my original vision of myself as a teacher came to fulfillment during my time in ACE. Instead, a new vision came about through the expectations and encouragements of others, and thank God for that.

Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows by visiting





TF - ACE AmericorpsButton