Spanish substitute saves the day


Hannah Rosman

Mr Simon Contreras dancing

Ms. Rosemary Hernandez, one of the school’s Spanish teachers, has been on family leave since the beginning of the year. In her absence, Mr. Simon Contreras, a former Arlington Public School (APS) teacher who retired in 2013, has come out of retirement to teach her classes. Several students this year have expressed their appreciation for his leadership, kindness, and patience in the absence of their usual teacher. “I transferred into this class after the school year started,” freshman Erin McKenzie said. “When I did, I had no idea what it was going to be like, but it has ended up being really nice because Senor Contreras made me feel so welcome.”

We asked Mr. Contreras a few questions about himself and his work.

Q: What made you decide to be a teacher?

A: First of all, my mother is a teacher, but also sharing what I know is just something I love to do. I really think teaching is a passion. When you teach someone I think that is an everlasting legacy. The most beautiful gift for a language teacher is seeing his students learn the language.

Q: What schools have you taught at?

A: My first job was many years ago at a catholic school, where I taught for two and a half years, called Saint Patrick’s High School in the district. Then, I got a job from APS at Wakefield. I came to W-L in 1975 and I was here for 17 years. I left the classroom for five years to do a program called Spanish for Educators where I was a teacher on television. I taught Spanish to people all over the United States because we got a grant through the United States Department of Education. We broadcasted out of the career center, and you can still see reruns of it. When the grant ended, I came back to the classroom, but at Wakefield. I was there for 11 more years and that is where I retired from. Now, they called me here to be a substitute and I gladly came back to W-L. This is the school that happens to be my neighborhood school. My daughter graduated from here, so I have very close ties.

Q: What things do you do when you are not here, at school?

A: In my free time I do Spanish and Flamenco dancing. I also am very involved in the community. I volunteer with my wife at senior centers and schools. Overall, my favorite thing to do is spend time with my granddaughters.

Q: What made you want to become a substitute again?

A: I missed teaching and I missed the children. I love teaching. When you teach, I think you give part of your potential, intelligence and you share your knowledge. That is something really wonderful.