Middle School teacher Maria Taravella has devoted 45 years of her life to inspiring a passion and appreciation for the Spanish language and culture in students, developing their global citizenship and intercultural understanding. Taravella has felt a strong love for teaching for as long as she can remember. Eager to have a classroom and students of her own, she arranged a large blackboard and desks in the basement of her home where she instructed imaginary students at the age of eight. The encouragement and mentorship she received from passionate educators, including her aunt, as she navigated her way through school drove her to follow her dream of becoming a teacher.
Influenced by her childhood educators and learning experiences, Taravella fosters a comfortable and inclusive classroom environment, balancing structure and flexibility to meet student needs. Apart from her role as a world language teacher, Taravella also serves as an advisor for the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) at NSU University School. Currently, she is working with seventh and eighth grade NJHS members on making care packages, which include hand-written messages of thanks, for service members who are stationed out of the country through the nonprofit organization Operation Shoebox. She is also a member of the Florida Foreign Language Association.
Taravella is most proud of raising a daughter who, too, has decided to dedicate her life to educating future generations. She will always cherish the memory of witnessing the first group of students she taught at USchool graduate as she cheered them on alongside their families.
Q&A with Taravella:
What are some ways you instill a love of learning in your students?
I get to know my students, their interests, and what makes them special. When possible, I design projects that allow them to be creative and include the things they love. I embed interdisciplinary skills that combine with their study of the target language to further extend learning and enhance their engagement and success.
How has being a teacher impacted or changed your life?
Constantly adding to my repertoire of teacher tools has made me a lifelong learner. Working with the students has kept me young.
What is your favorite thing about teaching at NSU University School?
Having come from a county public school, the latest technological innovations were, at times, slow to be integrated into the curriculum and routine teaching activities. As a 21st century educator, USchool has given me the opportunity to update and maintain the technological skills needed to meet the needs of 21st century students.
What do you think makes our students at NSU University School stand out from the rest?
Having access to experiential learning opportunities enables students at USchool to follow their passions and develop their skills. Students who are undecided about a career path are inspired to explore different paths with the wide selection of programs offered.
What are some words of wisdom you would share with future educators?
Teaching is not a job that you can leave behind every evening. It is a vocation that requires patience, flexibility, and a love of young people above and beyond curricular intelligence. In this role, be ready to be a parent, counselor, doctor, cheerleader, actor, and chief negotiator. Otherwise, it is a wild ride for only the brave and a bottomless source of unbelievable material for that retirement book most teachers say that they will write.