Elkins native wins teacher of the year honor
ELKINS — A local Spanish instructor and Elkins native recently earned teacher of the year honor.
Leah Devine, an online Spanish teacher with the West Virginia Virtual School was named Outstanding West Virginia World Language Teacher of the Year by the West Virginia Foreign Language Teacher’s Organization in October.
“Languages, culture knowledge and understanding international customs all can broaden a student’s perspective and encourage the student to see the world through new eyes. When students can reflect on the greater world, they can also in turn reflect on their own language, communities, customs and daily practices,” Devine said about the value of learning languages and developing global and cultural literacy.
Devine teaches virtually in five counties in the state, including Randolph, Monroe, Greenbrier, Summers and Kanawha. Within these counties, she instructs students at Western Greenbrier Middle School, DuPont Middle School, Mountain View Middle School and Peterstown Middle School, Pickens School, Summers County Middle School and Summers County High School.
“Basically, the students are on online curriculum most of the time, but three days out of the week, I call them and I teach them,” Devine said. “When I teach them lessons, they’re seeing the same things I’m seeing and we’re doing a lot of the same skills we would be doing if we were in a face-to-face setting – such as answer this question, ask your neighbor this or tell me what color shirt you’re wearing.”
She went on to say the classes are proficiency based and interactive while they are primarily conducted over phone or online.
While the majority of her teaching is done virtually, Devine said she is able to visit her students three times per year.
Before she began teaching virtually, Devine taught for six years in a face-to-face classroom setting. She is now in her 12th year of teaching.
“Part of what I do is I go visit my students and teach them face-to-face, and when I’m there we do cultural activities,” Devine said. “Some of the things I’ve done is teach about the food made in Venezuela, and I was able to bring the students from Pickens to El Gran Sabor for a field trip.”
She explained students were to order in Spanish when they visited the restaurant, and several months later, the students made Venezuelan cuisine for their parents.
“They were taking what they learned food-wise to cook and prepare a meal using recipes in Spanish,” Devine said.
Devine earned a masters in instructional design and technology from West Virginia University. She is also the immediate past president of the West Virginia Chapter of American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, and the secretary of the West Virginia Foreign Language Teachers’ Association.
When she was a student at Elkins High School, Devine studied Spanish with Brad Martin, longtime language teacher at EHS.
“I learned a great deal from Mr. Martin as his student, and as I started my professional career I became increasingly aware of how phenomenal of a teacher and role model he is,” Devine said. “(Martin) has inspired other language teachers around the area and has multiple former students currently teaching world languages.”
She also noted 20 years ago Martin was awarded the teacher of the year award by the West Virginia Foreign Language Teachers Association.
In March, Devine will travel to Atlanta for the Southern Conference on Language Teaching to represent the Mountain State as teacher of the year and compete for the regional title.
“I’ll also attend workshops to learn things that will help to improve our profession that I can bring back and share with West Virginia students as well as my peers and colleagues,” Devine said.
While she said she does not currently have plans to teach any additional languages, she hopes to learn more, possibly Italian and Portuguese.
“We live and teach in an interconnected world where learning languages is a key to unlocking opportunities,” Devine said. “It is our duty as language teachers to help our students build confidence and skills that they can use to explore the world around them and the global community.”