Park Record

Park Record, September 28, 2023--For Rocio Curdy, Spanish and social studies educator at Silver Summit Academy, celebrating Hispanic heritage should be every day.

“It’s always, it’s not just one month. … Like, when you celebrate mom or dad, for us it’s always,” she says.

“You have to understand that Hispanic is a different culture: Always you’re around your family, you’re around your friends. It’s different than the American culture, which is more individualistic,” says Curdy. So, in her classes, “We’re always doing stuff.” 

“I always involve culture in whatever I do,” says Curdy, whether teaching the Spanish language or covering subjects in her history classes.

For her Spanish classes especially, Curdy focuses on highlighting the history, art and experiences unique to Spanish-speaking countries around the world. Her curriculum covers a new country each chapter, along with the usual grammar and vocabulary lessons. Right now, her classes are learning about Mexico, Peru and Chile. Next, they will learn about Guatemala and Paraguay.

One of the main ways she introduces Latino culture to her students is through food. 

“We go through the culture and always I have to emphasize the food because that was my first career. I went to culinary school,” says Curdy. 

Curdy loves the opportunity to cook for her students, with examples from previous lessons like empanadas, Argentine asado and tacos. 

“Food has something very special to do, that brings us together. Especially in Hispanic culture,” says Curdy. “With my students, I put so much emphasis (on food). One of my finals is to do a cooking class with them, so they cook and speak in Spanish.”

When her students argue that their culture’s food is better, she says prove it, inviting a community in her classes where students can celebrate their own backgrounds.

Born in Argentina and raised in Chile, Curdy says cooking is also representative of her own culture. “We Hispanics, we cook every day. It’s a different thing than here. … everything tastes better when it’s made at home,” she says. 

The focus on food in her classes has inspired a cultural cuisine event on Thursday, Sept. 28, that some of her highschoolers will host during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Since her students are currently learning about Mexico, they will be making tacos and quesadillas, welcoming other students to visit and try the meal during the school’s usual lunch hour. 

But again, this event isn’t just a one-time activity inspired by the nation’s designated Hispanic Heritage Month. Supporting the Hispanic students in the area has always been a goal for Curdy.

Curdy started her teaching career five years ago by teaching in the dual immersion program at Ecker Hill Middle School in Park City School District, connecting with Spanish speakers there.   

At Silver Summit Academy, Curdy now teaches middle and high schoolers, and has gotten to focus on developing her specific curriculums. The change has been a positive one for Curdy. 

“I feel like the school itself is welcoming,” she says. 

The US News education report shows that the school in South Summit School District has about 104 students and 4.8% are Hispanic/Latino. But that number is growing, says Curdy. 

“We’re getting more hispanics. We didn’t have much of the Hispanic population … so that’s something that’s very exciting,” she says.

Serving as the English Language Learner support in the district, she is also able to interact with Spanish-speaking students from K-12. 

“Since I support the students who don’t speak English … they see there is another person that’s just like them, teaching them,” she says. 

The focus on creating a safe space for her students is core to Curdy’s passion as a teacher. 

“I have very young students, so first they have to trust you. … It’s new for them to just come to school,” she says. Meeting with her ELL classes twice a week, Curdy says it’s important to establish a good relationship with the new students.

As an educator, Curdy is eager to push her students to their potential and encourage them to share their cultural backgrounds. 

“The relationship I have with my students, it’s very unique. It’s very special. I care a lot about them, I’m very protective of them. … It’s very important to me that they get an education,” she says.

The Wasatch Back is home, says Curdy. 

“I like that it’s so quiet and peaceful. It’s friendly. … I love to be in the mountains, I love to go walk or hike. I like that the community is so involved in sports and cultural events and education as well,” she says. 

After finishing her masters in Science and Curriculum Design, Curdy says she wants to support her Hispanic students even more, with plans to lead a Latinos in Action group for her high schoolers.