Ms. Vargas Challenges Critical Thinking Skills

By Helen Hu ’19

Ms. Martha Vargas, a Spanish teacher, improves students’ critical thinking skills through engaging activities in order to prep them for the LOTE regents.

She was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States when she was 17 years old. She attended Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School.

“I was a shy individual when I was in high school. My teacher would always yell at me for speaking Spanish because I hadn’t learned English yet,” said Ms. Vargas.

Ms. Vargas has been working at Midwood High School for over 26 years. Her passion for teaching Spanish remains strong today. She didn’t consider teaching the language at first, but was inspired after a memorable experience in her native country.

“I remember helping my teachers back in the Dominican Republic and how much I enjoyed it,” she said. “I never thought I would become a Spanish teacher here in the United States until I went to college.”

Ms. Vargas is motivated to come back every year because she loves seeing her students assimilate to a new language that can possibly further their careers.

“Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the world after English,” said Ms. Vargas. “Being able to speak Spanish greatly enhances your resume. A lot of companies prefer individuals who can speak Spanish fluently.”

Ms. Vargas has played an influential role for her students, and they genuinely admire how much potential she has in her job. Her love for teaching never goes unnoticed.

Karla Olivares ’19, a former student, said, “I admire the effort Ms. Vargas puts into her lessons because she makes learning Spanish fun for her students. I’ve always looked forward to Lo Tengo and Hot Potato, even though it gave me so much anxiety.”

“Lo tengo” translates to “I have it.” In this activity, the class is divided into two groups where everyone is given a piece of paper with a vocabulary word on it. On the Smart board, a picture will be shown and whoever shouts “LO TENGO”  first and loudest will receive a point for their team. The students word must correspond with the picture. However, two students will have the same vocabulary word, one from each group, making it a competition.

Hot Potato is another class game Ms. Vargas intentionally set up for students to memorize and strengthen their vocabulary. The rules are simple: students are circled around the room and they rapidly pass around a cushioned football while the music is playing. The music can stop at any random moment and whoever receives the ball at the same time will have to answer a question or translate a word in reference to the lesson.

“Her games motivate students to study and be prepared for her exams and the Regents as well. Ms. Vargas is willing to take time from her day if we need extra help,” stated Maya Martinez ’20. “I have struggled with accent marks and she helped us resolve this by showing us step by step how to use them when needed.”

In order to qualify for the advanced Regents diploma, Spanish 6 classes will have to take the Language Other Than English (LOTE) exam. The requirements for the speaking portion is where the students have two full conversations based on two different scenarios. 

Because most students have already taken or scheduled the speaking portion with their teachers, the next focus they have to worry about is the written portion.

According to, the official written portion of all LOTE exams will be administered at 1:15 p.m. on Monday, June 18, 2018.

“I’m not looking forward to the Regents because I struggle a lot with Spanish, but I know I will do fine because of everything my teachers have taught me, especially Ms. Vargas,” said Lin Lin Ni ’19.

Aime Chau ’19 said, “Ms. Vargas is definitely one of my favorite teachers because she makes class enjoyable. Her lessons are comprehensible and she always make it a priority to help students in whatever way she can for them to pass the Regents.”

Ms. Vargas is proud to work in a community like Midwood because it offers a variety of opportunities that students can take advantage of. Students appreciate her dedication to teaching and they admire who she is as an individual.

“I love how diverse our school and being in a classroom seeing my students learn Spanish is the best part of my day,” she stated.

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