finnegan
LRHS Spanish teacher Valerie Finnegan inspires her students

“Mustangs Ahead” is asking teachers “Why do you teach?” This segment by Paige Venuto is about LRHS Spanish teacher Valerie Finnegan.

(LAKEWOOD RANCH, FL)- I wanted to be a teacher from a very young age.  It was the only thing I wanted to do for years.  I think that was because I had some wonderful teachers in school who really seemed to enjoy what they were doing.

However, when I was a junior in high school, I started to question if it was the right path for me.  So, I entered college without declaring a major.  This allowed me to take the required courses while considering what career path I wanted to take.

For a while, I seriously considered becoming a lawyer.  In the end, though, I decided that teaching was really what I wanted to do.  I originally thought I would teach English, but after doing a study abroad in Spain and completing part of my student teaching at the American School Foundation in Mexico City, Mexico, I realized that I wanted to share what I learned during those experiences.  As I always tell my students, you never know what unplanned paths your life will take.

I started teaching right out of college.  However, while I was in high school, I worked as a waitress at a restaurant at a ski resort near my home in Pennsylvania.  During my summers in college, I worked at a Country Club Golf Course.  I started at a snack shack and then moved to waitressing in the country club restaurant. While in my senior year in college, I worked as a teaching assistant (TA) and graded tests for my Spanish professors.

I started teaching in Franklin, Virginia, in 1996.  I was also the varsity cheerleading coach for the five years I taught there.  I moved to Florida in 2001 because I wanted to obtain my master’s degree, which I earned in 2005. This is my 17th year at Lakewood Ranch High School.  Throughout my years of teaching, I have taught Spanish levels 1-4.

My favorite part of my job is being with my students.  Every day with them is an adventure and I am constantly learning from them.  My least favorite parts of my job are grading make-up work and the increasing requirements that are constantly being placed upon teachers and schools.

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