LA CRESCENT, Minn. -- After a lifetime of traveling and nearly 40 years of teaching a world language, La Crescent High School's Mrs. McDowell says there's no place she'd rather be than with her students.
Mrs. McDowell's interest in other cultures began at a young age. "I had a teacher who also knew French and she taught us some French expressions and I think the seed was planted in first grade," said Maureen McDowell, March Top Notch Teacher.
She started learning Spanish in seventh grade. "I found it really thrilling that I could speak a language and my mom and dad couldn't understand what I was saying."
After learning the language she set off on adventures of her own, traveling to Mexico, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. "I love to travel and I hope I can instill that in my students. It's a big world out there and I want them to see the whole world."
"In addition to learning the language and being able to create within the language, I hope I instill in them another lens in which to see the world."
Her enthusiasm about world languages have inspired her students with stories similar to her own.
"Mom has no idea what we're saying. We'll start talking Spanish and she'll have no idea what we're saying," said Jessica Ideker, Student.
"To see them come into the class knowing zero and then at the end of three years go onto Spanish four, being able to communicate in the language, knowing different tenses, knowing about the culture it's very rewarding," said Mrs. McDowell.
And to every one of her students who she says has taught her something, she says this. "I hope they all realize that no matter how proficient or how easy Spanish comes to them, I want them to know I care about them as a human being and I want them to follow their dreams and I would like to encourage them in all areas of life and not just Spanish."
In 2012 Mrs. McDowell will have spent 40 years in the classroom. She continues to enjoy teaching Spanish and plans to do so for at least a few more years, saying it's her students who keep her young.