Valued Community Member Mrs. Shirley Ruiz  Spanish Special Speaker Event

What a wonderful year we have been having in Spanish class! Just this past week, we were able to welcome another "Valued Community Member", Mrs. Shirley Ruiz (Nehemías’ mom), into Pitman Middle School to share with us a presentation about Puerto Rico. Mrs. Ruiz shared many photos of Puerto Rico and the beautiful capital city of San Juan. It is a city both modern and  historic. We were able to see many photos of El Viejo San Juan(a section of the modern city San Juan) with its cobblestoned streets, monuments, fountains, and the fort, El Morro. El Morro is a beautiful 16th century citadel on the northwestern most point of the islet Old San Juan. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with breathtaking views of the coastline and many historic attributes to be discovered.

We enjoyed hearing more about Puerto Rico’s history and its evolution into becoming a Protectorate of the United States. Nehemias was very knowledgeable about the Spanish American War and shared information with the class about how the Spanish American War shaped Puerto Rico’s history.

Another key topic in Mrs. Ruiz’s presentation was the effect of hurricane Maria on Mrs. Ruiz’s childhood home, family, and friends still living in Puerto Rico. We watched beautiful video clips of people and places on the Island taken before Hurricane Maria. We noted how warm and friendly people were as they introduced different aspects of the island to the filmmakers.

 We then saw videos of the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Mrs. Ruiz shared the conditions in which many people are living outside of the bigger cities in Puerto Rico. Times are difficult but we were able to see many determined people rebuilding their lives, sharing what they have with their neighbors and echoing and modeling the phases seen everywhere on flags, signs and buildings: “Puerto Rico se levanta”.

People everywhere are intent on “Rising Up” from the effects of the storm. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the clip Mrs. Ruiz shared with us of one elementary school in the first moments after electricity was restored to their school after 6 months. The joy and happiness that the students and teachers expressed was a sight to behold. Students asked Mrs. Ruiz if classes had been cancelled for six months. She shared with us that classes had not been cancelled despite the hardships people were facing after the storm,

students and teachers had persevered all this time with no electricity or basic services because they knew that they needed to keep learning and  going to school to keep the island headed in a positive direction.

We noticed that in one of the little stores featured on the video clip, people were eating a traditional pudding called Tembleque. We also ate Tembleque in class and drank “Jugo de Durasno y Jugo de Guava y Jugo de Sandía” to enjoy a Puerto Rican cultural treat. After enjoying our treats and having an opportunity to ask more questions, Mrs. Ruiz left us with a wonderful message about “Learning and Growing” both in school and out. She said that despite any difficult circumstances, we must continue to learn and grow. To further remind us of that message,  Mrs. Ruiz gifted every student with an American flag had embellished with special tags printed with the words “Learn and Grow.” As a teacher, I cannot help but smile as I see many students in the hallways still using these inspiring flag messages as the placeholder for their student planners

“Gracias de nuevo a la Señora Shirley y a Nehemias” for sharing this wonderful presentation with our school.