For anyone who associates learning a new language with memorizing vocabulary words and conjugating verbs, Middle School world language educator Marisol Irwig’s perspective on teaching languages will be a breath of fresh air. A lifelong musician, Ms. Irwig sees many similarities between languages and music and employs that perspective in her teaching.
“Music is another kind of language,” she says. “It’s a different way of communicating, through feelings and emotion. I want to encourage the exploration of languages through music and culture. I was able to achieve a greater understanding of life and culture through music and language, and I want my students to have the same experience.”
Growing up in Mexico in a music-loving family, Ms. Irwig developed an appreciation for various musical genres and the performing arts. As part of her musical education, she learned the foundations of piano, classical guitar and composing, but her primary instrument is the flute. And her musical education was also a language education, particularly Italian, as it is often used in classical music. Her appreciation of languages beyond her native tongue began to evolve, although her native Spanish remained closest to her heart.
“I have a tremendous love for Latin America and Hispanic communities, but that love has extended to other countries that don’t speak Spanish,” she says.
As a Spanish teacher, Ms. Irwig’s vocation has always been complemented by musical pursuits, including serving as a director for bands and choirs. “Music is my second passion next to languages,” she shares. “I believe teaching is a great opportunity for my life. Everything is combined: languages, culture, music, science. And I love sharing my passions with my students.”
Utilizing a holistic approach in her teaching is also critical to Ms. Irwig. She believes that when you awaken students’ interest in multiple aspects of another culture, it spurs interest in the language of that culture.
“For my students, it’s important to learn not only the grammatical constructs of a language but to learn to fall in love with the cultural life of a country, with music, taste, flavors,” she shares. “Sometimes I bring my guitar to class, and we sing the songs of the countries we are studying. I believe it helps my students to learn to identify and love other sources of culture and creativity from other people and other parts of the world. Once the students are interested in what a community is doing, then they want to know how to communicate in the language of that community.”
Ms. Irwig acknowledges that the opportunities she has to combine her passion for languages, music and teaching are unique to La Jolla Country Day School. “LJCDS encourages me to use my talents and creativity as a source of inspiration to my students and my community,” she says. “As the department chair, I feel inspired and supported by our wonderful Middle School team and want to offer the same support to my team, my students, and the parents of students. Every day I have the pleasure of using my teaching philosophy to help students learn and have fun in an all-inclusive, respectful environment, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to work here.”