Two Spanish teachers at Minot High School-Central Campus have learned how very small the world can be.
A few years ago Meivis Tetzloff first learned that she had an unexpected connection to one of her high school Spanish students, Katherine Berg. Berg's mother is a cousin of Tetzloff's old junior high Spanish teacher from Panama, Nidia Mayorga.
Tetzloff hadn't seen Mayorga since she was a student at a private school in Panama in the 1970s, but they reconnected earlier this year when Mayorga visited her relatives in Minot. By that time Tetzloff's former student, Katherine Berg, had become a first-year Spanish teacher at Central Campus, where she is being mentored by her former teacher, Tetzloff.
Submitted Photo • Katherine Berg, her mother’s second cousin Nidia Mayarga and Meivis Tetzloff pose during Mayarga’s visit to Minot earlier this year. Mayarga was Tetzloff’s seventh-grade Spanish teacher in Panama. Berg was one of Tetzloff’s students when she was in high school and is now a Spanish teacher at Minot High School-Central Campus, where Tetzloff is her mentor.
"In our family, you're supposed to go into medicine," said Berg, but her mother's second cousin, who was originally from Nicaragua, decided to become a teacher.
Tetzloff remembers that Mayorga, who is in her late 60s and is still teaching at the school in Panama City, was a particularly inspirational teacher. Mayorga would have been in her late 20s when she taught Tetzloff. She was the sort of teacher whom the girls could talk to about what was going on in their lives, but she also demanded that they do their very best and excel.
"She would push you," said Tetzloff, who left Panama in 1990 and came to Minot with her husband, who was in the Air Force. Tetzloff has been a teacher at Central Campus for 10 years.
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"That's what they say about you," commented Berg, who said Tetzloff is also a demanding teacher who doesn't consider failure an option for her students. Berg jokes with her own students that Tetzloff was a "mean" teacher because she never accepts an excuse from a student about a missed assignment. If they haven't done an assignment, Tetzloff's students will likely find themselves in her classroom after school finishing their work.
Berg said she appreciates those qualities now more than she did as a teenager. Berg has spoken both Spanish and English since she was a small child and felt at one point that she didn't need to take high school Spanish since she already spoke it. But classroom Spanish helped improve her reading and grammar, and her studies abroad gave her a love of both travel and a better grip on other varieties of Spanish. The accent and some of the slang she learned in other countries is different from the Spanish she grew up speaking.
"I'm a really big fan of studying abroad," said Berg.
Tetzloff said she also tells her students how important it is to speak the language and study abroad if they get the opportunity. Learning a language is hard work and requires dedication, but being immersed in another culture and speaking the language every day can cut the amount of time it takes to learn a language.
Berg said it has been wonderful to have Tetzloff as a resource as she is in the classroom for the first time.
Berg had never met her mother's relative Mayorga before last month, but said it is inspirational to have another Spanish teacher in the family.
Tetzloff and Berg first learned about the connection in passing when Tetzloff was invited to Thanksgiving dinner at Berg's house a few years ago and the group began talking about where they were from and the people they knew.
When she finally had a chance to see Mayorga again, the women enjoyed catching up after more than 30 years, said Tetzloff. Mayorga told Tetzloff how important all her students have always been to her.