I have been very fortunate to have been visited by two master teachers in the past two weeks: Connie Navarro and Karen Rowan. Now here are the observations by a set of fresh eyes. Noah is a second year teacher from a Christian school in Denver, full of ideas and hope, who had asked to visit my classroom. Here are his observations.

I had heard about Bryce through some colleagues in the Spanish Teaching world. When I read that this was his final year teaching, I decided I better try to observe him while I still had the opportunity. When I looked up his school, Roosevelt High School in Johnstown, I couldn’t believe it was only four minutes away from where I was staying! On Tuesday, March 20, 2018, I went in to observe Spanish I and III.

First Impression

Upon entering the room, I immediately noticed books and books and books in the target language. Bryce promotes a healthy reading culture in his room, by reading with his students, giving them time to read in class, and encouraging them to check out his books and take them home. Many students check out these books not for a grade, or even extra points – but just to learn more! With all the things competing for a high schooler’s attention these days, I was very impressed.

Another thing that was clear upon arriving into the room was that students had responsibilities – It was group/community centered, where students knew their roles and that class was better because more students contributed. As an outsider looking in, at first I didn’t know know what was going on – which, fortunately one student had the job of “answer any questions any guests or visitors might have – make sure they understand”. Bryce has a list of the classroom jobs on his website. One that stood out to me was the “Sneeze Person” (Sorry if I am using the wrong titles) who gets everyone’s attention when someone sneezes and says, “Clase, 1,2,3…” to which the class chorally responds with “SALUD!”. 

The atmosphere in the room was definitely set up for learning, and was done so with intention. It seemed that everything that happened had a purpose, and Bryce would often explain to me, or remind the class, that this is WHY we are doing this activity.


Daily Objectives were posted on the board so students knew what to expect that day as soon as they walked in (which isn’t as easy as walking into most classrooms!). Before given permission to enter the room, you must produce a “secret password” that lasts for one week. I came on day one of a new password. It was encouraging to see some students who needed extra practice who couldn’t get it on the first try, but eventually got it correct after listening to other peers. At the end of the Spanish III class, Bryce asked if anyone remembered previous passwords, and students rattled off about 7 or 8, and probably could have kept going.

This gave me ample time to ask questions to both my little buddy (the class interpreter) who was assigned to help me, and also Bryce. In one of the Spanish I classes, I asked the girl who was assigned to help me understand if she liked her job. She responded, “Yeah. I feel like it has helped me to be a better communicator, because sometimes I keep to myself but this helps me to get better.” Bryce stressed the importance of matching the right person to the right job, just as a boss/leader does.


There were a few additional takeaways that I will be bringing into my classroom.

  1. You have to be intentional about what you assess.
  2. Not everyone has to be graded the same.
  3. Using grammar structures in highly personalized stories.

1. If you want to assess how well students understood a Spanish book, it is OK to have them explain the story in English. This was new to me, but Bryce’s reasoning of “otherwise you are assessing two things at once – comprehension and ability to produce”, as I understood it. This makes sense to me. If you want to have them produce, you could assess them with an oral quiz.

2. A high grade for a higher level student could require more details, structures, and/or words than what would be required for a lower level student to also get a high grade. I think this shows that you are invested into the success of your students, and also shows that the teacher is aware that not everyone will be at the same level of foreign language capability – and I think that is appropriate and fair.

3. Bryce gave me specific insight into the Commands unit I just finished as well as a unit that is coming up. His suggestions for commands were to use students to make a scenario about a new employee who is learning what to do and what not to do.

In another upper level unit, he shared his idea of the scenario of finding the “Most Likely to Succeed” student on the street in twenty years. We ask the kid to tell us what happened, and repeat over and over the structure of “If I would(n’t) have ______, then I would(n’t) have _________ .


Overall, as a second year teacher, I found a lot of encouragement from my time spent in this classroom. It was nice to see a teacher who had experience and poise. Like a master juggler, maintaining several balls in the air calmly and focused, and even doing some throws that you have never known existed. I felt very thankful that he takes time to help people on the other side of the spectrum – those of us who are just learning to juggle three balls, and constantly dropping, picking them up, and throwing them back into the air. I feel encouraged to finish off this year and try to apply some things I learned, and start off the year a bit differently next year.  We need good teachers, and by learning from each other and sharing ideas, we will be able to keep and sustain positive and impactful teachers!

Thanks for being so willing to share, Bryce!

Noah Schilling