The sky’s the limit for Skyview Middle School Spanish teacher Grant Boulanger


Skyview Middle School’s Spanish teacher Grant Boulanger was honored as the Regional Language Teacher of the Year. Eighth-graders take on roles in the interactive classroom conversations. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Grant Boulanger strives to create a positive learning environment for his students. He has been known to give each student a fist-bump as they exit his classroom. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

“Todo es posible en la clase de Español,” says Skyview Middle School teacher Grant Boulanger, explaining that it means, “Anything is possible in Spanish class.” 

Boulanger says students know that in his Spanish language classes at the Oakdale middle school, there’s always the possibility of the unexpected. 

His successful approach to teaching a foreign language is something that has caught the attention of his colleagues. He was recently named Regional Language Teacher of the Year by the board of directors for the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

“Ultimately, I’ve found passion creating engaging, joyful and successful language learning experiences for beginning language learners,” Boulanger says.

He achieves this by tailoring his lesson plans to his students’ interests and encouraging them to have meaningful Spanish conversations with each other about friends, pets and favorite activities. 

When students are hesitant to share personal information, reality is suspended, and they are encouraged to make up answers. Sometimes Boulanger even invents stories with his students. By co-creating wild stories in Spanish, Boulanger is able to keep his students engaged in the lesson and excited to apply their knowledge.

“One story we created this year was of a girl who received a mysterious package and was afraid to open it. She ended up taking it to Chuck Norris, who isn’t afraid of anything,” Boulanger says.

He has been teaching for 16 years and is a third-generation language teacher. He graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a degree in international business, but soon discovered his passion was not for business, but for sharing his love of languages and culture. 

He has since earned a certificate in German as a foreign language from the Volkshochule Dachau in Germany, and a master’s of education degree in second languages and cultures education from the University of Minnesota.

Boulanger also spent several years teaching at the Concordia Language Villages near Moorhead, and helped co-found El Colegio Charter School, a bilingual arts high school in Minneapolis. 

Before his position at Skyview Middle School, he taught language immersion at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion Elementary School in New Hope, and he directed Middlebury College’s first Spanish immersion summer program for secondary students. In the summer, Boulanger teaches youth ceramics classes in Spanish and English.

“Working in public education I realized I could not count on my students sharing [my] passion [for foreign languages]. I needed to be open to and provide ways for my students to discover themselves in language learning. This realization caused a mind shift that brought clarity and broader purpose to my work,” he says.

Now, he strives to create an environment where students feel they belong and can trust each other. He wants his students to view themselves as natural language learners. Boulanger says language connects people throughout the world just as much as it helps people trust and connect with their neighbors.

“I’ve learned ...  that building students’ abilities to trust, connect with and honor one another is a crucial first step to helping them build bridges across world cultures.

“My favorite part of being an educator is watching students of all walks of life come together as an engaged and trusting community committed to learning with and about their classmates in Spanish,” he says. 

In October 2015, the Minnesota Council on the Teaching of Languages and Cultures selected Boulanger as the Minnesota Language Teacher of the Year for his dedication to teaching language and culture. 

This qualified him to represent Minnesota at the Central States Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. CSCTFL is made up of the following 15 states: Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. 

As regional winner Boulanger will represent the 15 states at the national competition at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Convention & World Languages Expo in Boston, scheduled for November 2016.

Skyview Middle School Principal Joe Slavin said that everyone at the school is proud of Boulanger, and they are excited to see what will happen at the national competition.

“As CSCTFL Teacher of the Year and an ACTFL national finalist, I am an advocate for engaging, equitable and joyful world language teaching and learning at all levels that leads to real and measurable proficiency,” Boulanger says.

“Language is inherently a human-to-human, face-to-face endeavor. When people understand one another’s languages, they are better prepared to treat each other with respect and dignity.”

 

Aundrea Kinney can be reached at akinney@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

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