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One high school field trip influenced my entire life

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

By Jeri Denniston, Co-founder ArtsBusXpress

Do you remember your first school field trip - or any field trip - while you were in elementary or high school? One, in particular, has stuck with me my whole life. And it influenced my choice of college major and even my life choices.

When I attended high school in Phoenix, we were required to take four years of a foreign language. The school offered French, German, or Spanish. I chose Spanish. Mrs. Grundy and Ms. Figarelli taught Spanish, both grammar and literature. But their teaching methods were dramatically different.

Ms. Figarelli immersed us in the language. From the moment we entered the classroom, she addressed us in Spanish. She brought her own records into the classroom that we had to listen to which were all romantic ballads, “romanticas”, and we had to translate the songs into English. She introduced us to Spanish artists and the cultures of Mexico and Spain.

One day she took us to eat at a Mexican restaurant in Tempe. I think we rode on a bus to get there. I can’t remember. I don’t remember how many students actually went, but probably about 8-10 of us had parental permission to do so. I imagine our parents paid for us to go, but I never knew.

I remember crossing at night over the Mill Avenue Bridge into Tempe, seeing all the lights, and crossing a river! My parents had never taken me there. We lived 20 years in Phoenix, went to the library, the Phoenix Symphony, and the Heard Indian Museum in downtown Phoenix, and took weekend excursions to visit Indian ruins (my mom’s special interest), but I had never been to Tempe! This was exciting!

Ms. Figarelli had made arrangements with the restaurant staff to only speak Spanish with us. We had to order our food in Spanish and carry on a conversation in Spanish while we ate. The food I barely remember. But the experience I do! She introduced us to Spanish through food, music, and language and I loved it.

I excelled at English grammar, so Spanish grammar was a breeze, and I developed such a love of the language and culture that I majored in Spanish in college and did term papers on Spanish artists for art history class. I still listen to Spanish "romanticas" music and have learned to cook authentic Mexican and Spanish dishes.

That field trip influenced my life in multiple ways and is a fond memory I draw upon frequently 50 years later.


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