Clark Middle School in Mountain View is recognized as one of the most diverse middle schools in the nation. It's also home to Jade Leon — a Spanish teacher with a passion for language.

Over 900 students roam Clark's halls and a school official says there are 94 different dialects are spoken in the school. By teaching one of the world's most common languages, Leon helps bring the diverse student population together.

"I have always had a passion for language, learning Spanish, teaching Spanish," Leon said.

She's a product of the Spanish immersion program in Anchorage. Leon started learning Spanish in elementary school at Government Hill and continued until graduating high school at West in 2009.

"I am so grateful for that program," she said. "That program opened so many doors for me. I would not be a Spanish teacher if I hadn't gone through that program. I don't know if I would speak Spanish at all."

It was Leon's opportunity to see the world and explore a culture and language she now loves. She says she feels lucky to be enriching her 6th, 7th, and 8th graders' lives through the language.

"I really get to develop a relationship with them. I really get to see their growth" she said. "When they come in as 6th graders, they're still learning the ropes of middle school. When they leave here as 8th graders going into high school, they really blossom."

Middle school can be a time of great change for students as they transition to teenagers. Leon says she recognizes this and works especially hard to connect with her students on their level, hopefully passing on her passion for language.

"I love that my students get to come with their own perspectives," she said. "I feel like it makes it easier to compare cultures when so many different students are bringing their cultures to the table. It adds to some really good conversations in the classroom and I think it helps students understand the importance of recognizing cultural differences."

Leon believes it's a small world, but there's a lot to discover beyond the city of Anchorage.

"The English speaking community is not the only community in this country, in this state, in this world," she said. "And so, it's really important that we develop the ability to communicate with others and see things through a new perspective. Language really lends to a new understanding of different people and I think it's just vitally important that we do that."

Jade Leon is KTVA 11's Head of the Class, helping students grow through language.

Know an educator who deserves recognition? Nominate them for KTVA's Head of the Class.

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