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‘I’m going to be at Waterman Elementary here in Harrisonburg, and I’m doing the Spanish side of a first-grade dual immersion program, so I’ll be teaching all of the content in Spanish. I’m so excited for it.’

Deserae Barney (’14, ’15M)

Was JMU your first choice?

JMU was the only school where I did an official tour. A bunch of other schools came to our high school and I went to all the information sessions. I tend to plan ahead really far, so I had been researching the different schools since middle school, and I knew that JMU had a five-year master’s degree in education. When I was in high school at home, I was volunteering in the elementary schools and people there were telling me about the education program here, so I was pretty much set on JMU from Day One.

How long have you known that you wanted to teach?

Oh, teaching is what I have always wanted to do. My fifth-grade teacher was my favorite teacher, and so it never changed after that. 


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When did Spanish become a passion?

I started studying Spanish as an elective in middle school. I loved the teacher and I loved language, so I took all the classes I could at middle school and high school, and then I also did some college-level Spanish online while I was still in high school. By the time I got to JMU I had to take a bunch of literature classes and poetry classes, but I didn’t need to take any of the conversational Spanish classes here. That was nice, actually, because I had a really full schedule with all the other classes I needed to take.

And you have a job lined up?

I’m going to be at Waterman Elementary here in Harrisonburg, and I’m doing the Spanish side of a first-grade dual immersion program, so I’ll be teaching all of the content in Spanish. I’m so excited for it.

That seems a long way from teaching fifth grade.

Even once I was at JMU and started doing practicums I always enjoyed the upper elementary grades, especially fourth and fifth grades. I loved them. I did some first and second grade and liked those, but I had always been really set on the higher elementary grades. When student teaching came around, my first placement was fifth grade in a middle school. The school and the kids and my supervising teacher were all great, but I really missed being in the culture of an elementary school. My second placement was kindergarten, where I’ve spent most of the school year and I have to say that my experience with them tipped the balance for me. I applied for a bunch of different jobs, and after this year’s experience at McSwain, I was really hoping for kindergarten or first grade — so I’m especially grateful to get my wish with first grade.

Is immersion a good idea?

I think it’s a great idea. This program in Harrisonburg City Schools is a two-way dual immersion program. Half of the kids are native English speakers and half are non-native English speakers. I know already that next year, I’m going to have two classes of 19 students. For the first half of the year, I’ll have my students in the morning for literacy and math in Spanish, and then those students will go for the second half of the day to do science, social studies and literacy in English while I get other kids. And then the second half of the year it switches, and I’ll be doing science, social studies and literacy in Spanish, and they’ll get literacy and math in English. I’ve gotten a chance to go in at a different elementary school here in Harrisonburg a couple of times, and even when I was in the kindergarten class back in the fall, all of the kids — no matter their native language — were all walking around interacting together in Spanish, the teacher was giving them all the instructions in Spanish and they knew what to do. It was so amazing. I cannot wait to be a part of this.

Have you been happy with your JMU professors?

I would say that, from my first day here, the professors have been my favorite part of JMU. Every semester, I’ve had great professors. I feel like with every class that I’m “Oh this is such a great professor,” and then they just seemed to get better and better each semester. You can just tell that they all care, and all of the ones I had were really dedicated to what they were doing. That dedication inspired me to do better.

Has JMU been a good experience for you?

I really don’t think that there’s anything that I would change about my time at JMU.

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Deserae Barney (’14, ’15M)

Hometown: Culpeper, Va.
Majors: Interdisciplinary Liberal Studies; Spanish
Minors: Elementary Education; English as a Second Language: Spanish-English Translation and Interpretation
Highlights: Roop Learning Community; student taught at T.C. McSwain Elementary School in Staunton; volunteered as a teacher of Harrisonburg area adult immigrants and refugees in the local career development academy; studied abroad in Ghana; multiple financial scholarship recipient; Master of Arts in Teaching with licensure pre-K through 6 and ESL pre-K through 12. 

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