Hacker hacks the system of being a great teacher

After traveling to many countries, Hacker is able to help her Spanish students connect more to the culture


M. Armstrong

Valerie Hacker stands proudly next to her colorful board of student artwork.

By Maggie Armstrong

As the sound of the first-period bell on a Monday morning jolts the students awake, they rub their eyes and take out their pencils, dreading the school day ahead. When they glance up at the board to see the daily plans for Spanish III Honors, they are greeted with an energetic smile from Spanish teacher Valerie Hacker. 

She walks across the room with a pep in her step and welcomes her first-period class to another Monday morning. Without fail, she excitedly asks the students how they are feeling, persisting through each day despite the tired responses or lack thereof. 

“My first impression [was that] she was just super energetic. For any teacher that has that energy and is excited, it’s always nice to see,” sophomore Tyler Hall said. 

It is a refreshing sight to see a teacher so excited at 7:30 a.m., and it is just another glimpse into how passionate Hacker is for teaching. She works hard to engage the students and help them learn in the most fun way possible. 

“[School] is not only about what you’re learning, it’s about having fun too, and I feel like she really gets that idea and can execute it really well,” Hall said. 

For many students, learning a foreign language is as hard as it gets, but Hacker uses unique techniques to help the students truly understand the language and immerse themselves in the culture, including the students’ favorite technique: when she shares her personal experiences from different countries. 

“Because language and culture are so personal, I think I am able to share quite a bit of my life and who I am with my students, and then I think when they feel comfortable too, they share,” Hacker said. 

After spending a few summers with a host family in Mexico and taking trips to Spain and Columbia, Hacker makes the class more interesting and serves as a connection for the students to the culture. 

Her bright smile and welcoming attitude are complemented by her unique teaching. She makes the environment comfortable and engaging for the students. 

“She’s always joyful, and my freshman year, she just always made me feel comfortable because I was really shy,” junior Julia Growney said. 

Hacker is also able to share valuable life lessons that she learned from her experiences. This improves her connections to each of her students and allows them to feel safe to talk about their own personal experiences. 

While this is now one of Hacker’s favorite parts of being a teacher, she did not even imagine her own impact on students when her passion for teaching first began. 

“When I was 5, and I was in school, and when my room was quiet, and I could hear the teacher’s heels clicking down the hall, I wanted to be a teacher,” Hacker said. 

Nonetheless, this small, memorable experience initiated her journey toward pursuing teaching in college. Her trip to Malaga, Spain during college narrowed her passion down to teaching Spanish, and every Spanish class since has reassured her of her decision. 

Because of these predestined experiences, Hacker has inspired hundreds of students and touched hundreds of lives. 

“It’s a matter of reaching out and connecting and getting to know other people. And just taking that opportunity, taking a chance,” Hacker said.