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The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

The Student News Site of Palo Alto High School

The Paly Voice

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Duffy wins state-wide Outstanding Language Teacher Award

Spanish teacher Kevin Duffy´s classroom is known for its brightly colored maps, posters depicting beaches in Oaxaca, bull runs in Pamplona and friendly reminders to speak in Spanish. Duffy now has a new addition to his wall display, and while he may downplay the significance of the plaque declaring him the winner of the 2007 California Outstanding Language Teacher Award, he really is humbly grateful of its implications.

The Outstanding Teacher Award is an honor presented every year by the California Language Teacher Association (CLTA). The award is presented at the annual convention, this year held from March 29-April 1 in Santa Clara, CA.

Duffy sat at the CLTA convention this year as the conference chairman. Focused on other responsibilities, Duffy said he did not even consider who the winner or winners of the Outstanding Teacher Award might be this year. It was only when the presenter said among the list of descriptions of the winner, “…and this person gives out lots of Duffy dollars” that Duffy realized he had won.

Duffy’s family and friends came to Santa Clara to be with him at the convention. Among his old friends also came his brother from Las Vegas, his Dad from Placerville, and his Aunt, who hates air travel, from Wisconsin. Duffy met them with tears.

“I have seen many others win, but I never expected to win. They [previous winners] were always such superstars,” Duffy said.

The award is given to one or more teachers for their “outstanding teaching in the classroom… and sponsoring of extra and co-curricular activities that enhance and encourage language study,” among other things, according to the CLTA web site. Candidates are nominated by colleagues or affiliates, unbeknownst to the nominee.

“He totally deserves the award” senior Zev Karlin-Neumann said. “He is really a dynamic teacher who cares about his students and his subject.”

Karlin-Neumann is in Duffy’s Spanish 4AP class, and volunteered to write one of the three required letters of recommendation for the award. Karlin-Neumann wrote in his letter:

“I don’t know exactly what this award that I’m recommending him for is, but I do know that Sr. Duffy deserves recognition precisely because he is so selfless, because he comes to class daily with a smile, eager to be with us and educate us, regardless of acknowledgment or appreciation.”

Duffy has taught in the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) for 14 years: four years at Jordan Middle School and ten years at Paly. He has taught Spanish and German, but currently is teaching just Spanish at Paly.

Duffy started taking Spanish in ninth grade, inspired by his grandfather’s hobby to study Spanish. He continued on to major in Spanish at San Jose State University. Duffy also studied German at San Jose State. Duffy enjoys traveling with students and has led many educational trips abroad.

“I love teaching because of the interactions with students,” Duffy said later. “I enjoy their energy, enthusiasm, humor and I love being able to help them learn about a new language and culture. I feel lucky to be able to be a part (however small) of young people’s lives. I hope I can help students find out that learning another language can be enjoyable, and it’s a skill they can use for the rest of their lives.”

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