For the last 20 years, Edina High School has been gifted with the presence of Alejandro Diaz-Andrade in the language department. He has been a favorite among students for his humor in class, goofy remarks, as well as for his aptitude and capabilities as a teacher.
Where is he going? It’s a question many people are wondering. The answer is that Señor Diaz is leaving to move to South Korea with his family to teach at an international school. Diaz is excited about the opportunity but is also bummed that he will have to leave Edina.
He expressed his main reason why he took the opportunity: “I will be able to teach classes that I’ve wanted to teach and I will have more freedom. It will be a new place and I can travel with my family,” Diaz said.
Diaz explained that he has always wanted to take a leave from teaching to travel with his family and to teach them international culture, but now he will be able to do both. “I’m excited to know nothing about the culture in Asia and get to try new foods and activities,” Diaz said.
While Diaz keeps his class focused and interesting by blending humor into the lesson, he allows kids to enjoy the class and sets them up to succeed. “He’s made taking Spanish fun, and I feel like he’s one of the teachers that really cares about his students and his teaching. He really wants you to be successful and to be good at Spanish. He also makes it fun, so you enjoy going to his class every day. If anything, it makes me want to continue learning Spanish,” sophomore Tess Bernstein said.
His students say his success comes from his combination of humor and his unique and effective teaching style: “He has helped me improve so much, and find a love for Spanish that I don’t want to go to waste, and now I want to do something with Spanish in the future because of him. Diaz made me feel like I was really improving with my, and with having him as my teacher verified the fact that I want to keep taking Spanish,” Bernstein said.
Diaz also prided himself on his graduation speeches, each one offering a message to the students. “I was chosen by the student body, which means a lot to me, that what the students wanted was to choose me. I don’t think there is any story behind it. Usually, they ask you to tell a message to the students.” Diaz said. He went on to tell of his goals with each speech. “My messages were very simple: It’s ok to make mistakes in life, and also hopefully everybody will get a chance to experience the world outside of the Edina borders.” As Diaz’ students graduate and are faced with the reality of life, they can invoke his messages for help.
Of the questions that arise due to the upcoming absence of Diaz, two of them stand out: Who will take over his clubs? And what will happen to his brand new world business class? These two questions bring to light a new side of his absence. “I’m hoping they continue, and that another teacher picks them up. This is the 19th year of Ping Pong club, and I also have soccer club,” Diaz said. In his classroom, the folded ping pong tables are like billboards, advertising the fun and excitement of Ping Pong Club, a large part of Diaz’ legacy.
In regards to the new world business class, Diaz intends to still help and be a part of it. “I’m pretty sure the class is happening, it all depends on the numbers of kids who sign up, and I think Mr. Gallagher is still working on getting information and I’m helping with some ideas,” Diaz said. He and Mr. Gallagher are planning on keeping in contact while he is gone so that Diaz can provide information to the class in conjunction with Mr. Gallagher’s teaching. Mr. Gallagher plans on incorporating him as a “class resource via skype”. He also plans on developing the curriculum over the summer on his vacation to Costa Rica.
It may be challenging for some students to not have Diaz as a teacher, especially for Spanish Enriched IV. “For the students who have him, it will be drastically different because most people who have Diaz, like me, prefer his style of teaching more than any other teacher,” sophomore David Woolner said. Diaz formulated his own curriculum for Enriched Spanish IV and has been the only teacher who has taught it so far. It will be a huge change for another teacher to start teaching the class in a different style.
Diaz’ use of fichas to teach how to speak naturally and easily causes students to pass with higher grades and enjoy Spanish more. The fun and effectiveness of his lessons about fichas proved to help most of his students obtain good, quality grades, so when one student didn’t, he wouldn’t let them back down. “He’s good at making sure you have a solid understanding, and even if you get a bad test score, he’ll push you to get better, so you’ll be an overall better Spanish speaker,” sophomore Lizzy Van Ert said.
“It will be a lot different because you can’t replace Diaz. No other teacher does fichas or plays ping pong in class,” sophomore Hank Stechman said.
Diaz would not give up on people who weren’t succeeding, and he’d do everything he could to teach anything that a student missed. Diaz has taught many important topics throughout his career in high school, but one important one that he helped students with was conversation skills. He teaches them through oral tests, IPAs, and practicing Spanish commands and conversations in class. “Diaz has taught us a lot about how to have natural conversations in Spanish that actually make sense, which I think is really important for world language students to learn,” junior Anna Devine said. Conversation skills are vital in learning a language, and Diaz teaches them to his students better than anyone else.
While Señor Diaz is sad to say goodbye, he says it is important that students know it’s not forever, as he will do his best to keep in contact, and that he will come back after a few years with his family. While reminiscing about his time here, he expressed what he will miss most about Edina, “The students, this may sound cliche and I’m unsure of my reputation as a teacher, but I want the kids to learn something. I can be fun and say jokes, but we work and build on our learning. It’s going to be hard starting at a new school without knowing anyone, so I’ll miss the students and the good friends that I teach with.”
Diaz was known for his teaching methods, his most successful being “the fichas,” which he provided an explanation for. “Fichas is an idea to accelerate the learning process of Spanish. It’s meant to make an analogy between the grammar in English and the grammar in Spanish, so kids will get how to say certain sentences. They’re effective because the kids will get familiar with the structured sentences through repetition and practice,” Diaz said. He then went on to explain, “The fichas, I created them. Some students love them others hate them. I don’t know if I’ll leave a legacy, but I hope the students take their learning with them in the future and build off the learning I taught them.” Although he will be more than 6,000 miles away, Diaz hopes his legacy will continue through the fichas.
Dominick Ingram, a 2018 graduate of EHS, still keeps in contact with Mr. Diaz. “I will miss Diaz for his unique teaching style, as well as his dedication to getting to know his students on a more personal level. He truly cared about what everyone did outside of the classroom, and he was interested in all of our futures after EHS,” Ingram said.
“My favorite qualities of Diaz has to be his humor, ‘Cuac’, and how positive he was. You could never tell if he had a bad day because he was always making people smile,” Ingram added.
“I think I speak for many of his students when I say that Mr. Diaz is a unique teacher, the kind of teacher that cares for his students and wishes to see them succeed,” sophomore Alexa Schedin said in agreeance. Many students can agree that Diaz made Spanish a class that was fun and easy to learn because of how well he taught it.
Through all of the student’s messages, it’s clear to see that Diaz has touched the hearts of many of his students. “He’s one of those teachers that becomes like a friend to you, and you know that they’ve impacted your life in a positive way,” Van Ert said.
Diaz will surely be missed.“I know he will make such a tremendous impact in his future endeavors, as he did with this chapter of his life here at Edina. Mr. Diaz has improved the learning environment of many by making learning fun, meaningful, and engaging,” Schedin said.