Jim Albert’s sons have long since graduated from St. Patrick School, and yet you’ll still find the father of five walking the school hallways each week.
At one time, Jim may have been Mr. Albert to the kids he passed in the hall, but today, he is Señor Albert. After decades spent working in the public school system and as a special education monitor with the Michigan Department of Education, the long-time educator shifted gears 12 years ago to become the Spanish teacher at St. Patrick School.
The job gives Jim not only a chance to share his love of the language, but also to connect with his grandkids in a unique way. Nine of his 16 grandchildren are enrolled at St. Patrick School, and two of his daughters-in-law serve as educators in the school. Being able to spend time with family doing meaningful work is one reason Jim says, “I am truly blessed.”
Finding a New Passion
This marks Jim’s 50th year in education, but he’s only been immersed in Spanish for about a decade.
“My wife and I went to Costa Rica, and I fell in love with the country,” Jim explains. He then went back for three summers to study Spanish at the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro. Since then, he has not only taught Spanish at St. Patrick School but also at the high school level and provides instruction in English as a Second Language (ESL) though Belding’s Adult Education program.
“It’s a God-given gift to be able to speak another language,” Jim says. He points to research that shows learning a language can lessen or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. What’s more, learning a second language can help bolster a person’s native language skills.
But beyond that, Jim says people should learn a second language simply because it’s fun. “It’s exciting to be able to speak with someone in their native tongue,” he explains.
Fostering a Love of Language in Students
Jim hopes his enthusiasm for Spanish rubs off on his students. “Seeing kids excited and motivated about learning what I have to share” is one of the best parts of teaching the language, according to Señor Albert.
So far, he has found a receptive audience at St. Patrick School. “They are really motivated to learn the language, especially the younger ones,” Jim notes. To make the Spanish program accessible for students of all ages, Jim incorporates songs, worksheets and activities such as creating Christmas cards en español.
“The kids are great in this school,” Jim says. “They are all respectful.” That makes it easier for him to hopefully spark a love of language in the children he teaches. Beyond the words of the language, Jim also seeks to help students gain cultural awareness and appreciate the many ways in which God made us different but also very much alike.
St. Patrick School: A Family Affair
In 1973, Jim and his wife Edna were married at St. Patrick Church. Together, they had five boys who all graduated from St. Patrick School and have gone on to successful careers in public service. Four are police officers and one is a state legislator. Two of Jim and Edna’s sons have also served as military captains.
The couple now have 16 grandchildren, and Jim gets to see 9 of them in the classroom when he’s teaching Spanish. His daughters-in-law Katie and Erica provide childcare and math instruction services at the school as well, making life at St. Patrick School truly a family affair for the Alberts.
For Jim, it only makes sense for his family and others to gravitate to St. Patrick School. “It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s a feeling of Godliness,” he says. After 50 years of teaching students from all walks of life, he appreciates having the opportunity to share a language he loves with the next generation of learners.