Dorothy Michel and Nora Hounain also contributed to this article.
Malden High School is delighted to welcome all the new teachers and staff this year. Among the new teachers is a new addition to the World Languages Department, Neil Callahan. Callahan is a Spanish teacher at Malden High School. He is Italian, Irish and Polish. This is Callahan's first year teaching after graduating from the University of Connecticut.
Callahan explained that he wanted to become a teacher because he previously had taken Spanish in high school. He recounted on his freshman year where he had a Spanish teacher who was dismissive to students, which created a hostile environment. When Callahan had that teacher he thought to himself that he disliked Spanish. However, when he changed schools, he had a Spanish teacher that spoke eight languages, offered good resources such as books, podcasts and other tools that he believed nurtured his abilities.
Callahan’s new Spanish teacher made it a “safe space” for him and made students feel motivated and confident to do their work. It showed him what kind of impact a teacher can have on a student’s ability and self-worth. Furthermore, it inspired him to get into the field as a Spanish teacher due to the positive impact a teacher can have on a student.
Callahan is finding his first year teaching both rewarding and challenging. Having to make that transition from student to teacher life has been overwhelming for him. He said “it [has] been a lot of work [with] having constant dates, reminders, answering emails, keeping up with a lot of students, developing lessons, making activities and making sure all the students are on track.”
Callahan went into detail about how “it [is] just different to actually teach and [he] finds it interesting,” in terms of the “difference between being a student who understands the language [...], then having to actually explain it.” With that, “[he] was expecting to have to keep up with students and their work.” Callahan recognizes how not every student learns the same way as some need extra support.
As a result, it helps to make him look at his topics in another perspective which makes teaching better. He is enjoying the road process and it has been not only helpful for his students, but for himself too. Marta Cabral, the Holland House Principal, thought that “[Callahan is] outgoing and eager to learn how to be a teacher.” She likes how he is always asking questions and tries to be the best teacher for his students.
Callahan's mentor is Patrick Finnegan and has been helpful to him. Callahan also received help from his colleagues in the World Languages Department, including Spanish teacher Sharon Kalagher. He added that both Finnegan and Kalagher help to keep him on track, give him advice and activity ideas.
Teaching in Malden is a whole new world compared to where Callahan grew up in Northern Connecticut. He liked Malden and believed it would be a good place for him to start teaching. With all the diversity and how much the student body welcomes people and ideas, it was “really nice to see,” Callahan said. Moreover, with teaching a foreign language he said “it [is] so great to have so many cultures present and having so many students that are already bilingual.”
Besides Spanish, another passion for Callahan is theater. He did theater in high school and holds a minor in dramatic arts. In college Callahan was able to both direct and be in shows and also act. He looks forward to getting involved in a dramatics program in Malden High and is hoping to make joy sessions about it such as theater analysis. In his free time, he enjoys watching and reading plays, works out occasionally, plays video games and likes playing soccer. Kalagher mentioned that she believes “Callahan has a good sense of humor and is easygoing.” She further added that he is doing a good job at being a Spanish teacher.
Furthering his career here at Malden High School, Callahan hopes to “focus on building speaking comprehension with students” because “[he] notices that students get overwhelmed and uncomfortable while talking in a foreign language.” He wants to be able to create a safe space for students where they feel comfortable enough talking and writing in his class. So far “[he] is really impressed with how many students speak more than one language and some even speak up to two already.” Callahan is excited to see where he will be in the next few years as a teacher.