Spanish Heritage Month is a time to recognize and celebrate the rich and diverse cultural contributions of Hispanic and Latino communities. Mount Vernon’s celebration honoring Spanish heritage has evolved into a multi-faceted and collaborative effort spanning grade levels and disciplines.

Last year, the School celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with a series of smaller activities, including morning announcements in Spanish. The desire to make a more profound and intentional impact led to a transformative shift in approach this year. Upper School Spanish teacher, Thamara Trematerra, a passionate advocate for cultural awareness and Spanish language, saw the opportunity to make Spanish Heritage Month more meaningful and inclusive. Recognizing that the school had a relatively small Hispanic student population, she believed it was essential to broaden the celebration’s scope and engage all students, regardless of their cultural background.

Additionally, this year the School is planning a culminating event on Tuesday, October 17 from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in the Upper School and the entire Mount Vernon community is invited to attend. The event will feature student music, dance, food and art exhibits.

Collaboration Across Disciplines

The key to this year’s success was the collaboration across various departments and grade levels. Ms. Trematerra believed that Hispanic heritage could be celebrated not only in Spanish classes but also across the curriculum. The idea was to incorporate Hispanic culture and achievements into various subjects taught in the Upper School and across each division. Ms. Trematerra explained, “Science classes could highlight contributions made by Hispanic Scientists, Humanities, could incorporate sparks or warm-ups that highlight Hispanic short stories or film clips. Art classes could highlight techniques and contributions made by Hispanic artists. Every discipline has opportunities, big or small, to incorporate or simply highlight Hispanic contributions. Students learning about these contributions in all their classes, across disciplines would have a much bigger impact on our students than learning about it only in their Spanish language class or hearing the pledge in Spanish.”

Lisa Lariscy’s innovative approach in her AP Environmental Science class seamlessly integrated the study of environmental issues with an exploration of Hispanic culture, providing students with a unique and enriching educational experience. By intertwining these two critical aspects, Ms. Lariscy sparked a passion for environmental concerns and deepened students’ understanding of cultural nuances in Hispanic countries. This interdisciplinary approach fostered critical thinking and instilled a sense of global awareness and cultural sensitivity, creating conscientious global citizens. Ms. Lariscy’s commitment to this dynamic teaching method exemplifies the transformative power of education in shaping a generation of students who are not only well-versed in environmental science but also culturally attuned and socially responsible.

Involving the Entire School Community

In Lower School Spanish teachers, Lily Catano and Andrea Guerrero created a mural featuring pictures of Lower School students, teachers, and people that have Hispanic roots. Inspired by the cultural immersion, several young Mustangs demonstrated their dedication by independently learning the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish.

First Grade students learned about artists of Hispanic origin. Among them Pablo Picasso from Spain, Frida Kahlo from Mexico, Fernando Botero from Medellin-Colombia, and Joan Miro from Spain. The students used techniques from these artists to create their own original work. Frida Kahlo inspired them to paint their self-portrait with the help of a mirror so as not to lose details; some other students were inspired by Pablo Picasso and his colorful and abstract works, and others were inclined towards the art of Joan Miro and surrealism. The artwork of these students will be on display during the October 17 event.

Kindergarten classes cooked traditional food from Colombia and Venezuela. “They made arepas, which are a kind of pancake made with corn flour, salt, water, and butter. The students had the opportunity to learn about some different Hispanic people who make a big impact in our culture and around the world.” explained Ms.Catano.

In all of Ms. Guerrero’s second through fifth grade Spanish classes, she taught the difference between Spanish, Latino, Hispanic, and Afro-Latino. Ms. Guerrero’s Grade 4 students went on an expedition to the Reeves House visual arts center to experience the LatinX Voices exhibition. This enriching experience emphasized the importance of connection, belonging, and how it strengthens the very fabric of our community.

Ms. Catano also partnered with Los Niños an organization offering summer, bimonthly academic and extracurricular programs for Latino preschoolers, elementary school children and their parents to organize a special choir performance during the culminating event on Tuesday, October 17.

Ms. Catano and Guerrero, also embraced The Impact Ready Project, the School’s new strategic plan, by partnering with the Brand office to create Spanish versions of Mount Vernon’s 6 new mantras. Inspired the Middle School used the Spanish version of the mantras as well.

To further integrate the celebration into the School’s culture, the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Action) office spearheaded efforts to incorporate Spanish into the school’s chapel service. This initiative aimed to demonstrate the importance of embracing diversity and celebrating different cultures.

Culminating Celebration Event

One of the highlights of this year’s celebration was the flyer competition, which was open to all Upper School students. The competition required students to create a flyer inspired by Hispanic Heritage and explain the reasons behind their design. The winning flyers would be used as promotional materials for the event.

The winners, Abby F. and Carly N., not only showcased their design skills but also offered thoughtful insights into the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Their entries provided a visual representation of the event’s purpose, making it more accessible and relatable to all students.

Mount Vernon School’s approach to celebrating Spanish Heritage Month serves as an inspiring example of how a school community can come together to celebrate diversity and inclusivity. By embracing an interdisciplinary approach, involving all grade levels, and fostering collaboration among teachers and departments, the celebration becomes more intentional and impactful.

Please join us Tuesday, October 17 from 5:00 to 6:30 pm in the Upper School. Students in all divisions will showcase their linguistic skills and cultural appreciation in this culminating event. Engaging performances, interactive displays, and art exhibitions will transport you to the heart of Hispanic culture. This event is a chance to embrace diversity and foster cultural understanding. Let’s come together to honor and celebrate the beauty of Hispanic heritage. All are welcome!