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Two WIU Students Help Teach Spanish to Local Elementary Students During Pandemic

May 14, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and St. Paul School Principal Laura Cody was looking for ways to reach students, she came up with a unique idea that includes assistance from two Western Illinois University students.

Before the pandemic began, Laura had been trying to find a way to get her son Drew, a junior Spanish education major, into St. Paul's classrooms to teach her elementary school students Spanish.

Drew had been tutoring at Spoon River College as part of his WIU Spanish class and enjoyed the opportunity.

"I wanted to try and get him more experience in the classroom, so we had several conversations on what that might look like," Laura said. "Then the pandemic hit, and schools closed."

Prior to the pandemic, WIU student Ashley Bowles, a pre-nursing major and Spanish minor, also of Macomb, had been working as an aide in St. Paul's aftercare program and Laura was trying to find a way to keep her working remotely.

Cody purchased a basic Spanish elementary curriculum to help guide the process, and the idea to post Facebook Live Spanish classes for students was born. Drew and Bowles teach the short classes in a project called "Santos que Aprendiendo Espanol" or "Saints learning Spanish," named after the school's mascot.

The WIU pair teach twice a week until the end of the semester to enhance the educational program St. Paul is providing during the pandemic.

"They started their teaching gig in my kitchen with lots of conversations about how to make this happen," said Laura. "They started team teaching in my kitchen until the social distancing became mandated. They now each take a day and post their video on the St. Paul Facebook page."

Laura said she has received multiple positive reactions to the classes, which students and parents can watch whenever they have time.

"Teaching Spanish at St. Paul has given me such joy and is helping me get through the stay at home order," said Bowels. "Knowing that I can share my talents and knowledge with others makes me happy and makes my heart full. St. Paul has given me so much, and it is reassuring knowing I was able to give back to its wonderful community."

Drew said the classes have been fun and the opportunity has also been an amazing learning experience.

"This has been a great first step towards my career and I am extremely grateful to come back to my alma mater, St. Paul School, and give back," he said.

Laura is also an alumna of WIU, receiving her master's degree in educational leadership in 2008. Her husband, Tom, is an education professor at Western.

The videos can be found at

For more information about WIU's Spanish Education program, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing