Daniel Orozco’s university studies did not train him to teach. Idyllwild Arts Academy’s new Spanish teacher earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and Public Relations from California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB).
Now he finds that his curiosity to explore suits his teaching job.
“Teaching Spanish, or any language, is about more than teaching vocabulary and grammar. When you learn a language you also want to know about the culture of the people who speak it, and my five years in Spain helped me get to know the original Spanish-speaking country and its people pretty well. If you can keep people interested in a language like Spanish by telling them stories about, for example, how paella came about completely by accident, then in time the vocabulary and grammar and all the other mechanics will come to them.”
Two Weeks Become Five Years
Born in Long Beach before moving with his family to the San Jacinto Valley, just over half an hour west of Idyllwild, Daniel would go on to start college in another coastal city, at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He transferred after a year to CSUSB, much closer to his San Jacinto Valley home, and did his senior year abroad, in Florence. He became conversant with Italian and enjoyed the country enough to stay on for a year after graduating.
“That year I played soccer, as a center midfielder, with a lower-division team. But I was years behind in my soccer development: the European teams identify prospects as very young boys, so by the time they’re sixteen or seventeen they’re where I was at twenty-two.”
“The Galicians speak Spanish to other Spaniards and to foreigners like me. But among themselves, and to their children in their homes, they speak Galician. Gradually, I became good enough so that they spoke Galician to me, too.”
Galician belongs to the same sub-group of Romance languages, evolved out of Vulgar Latin, that includes Portuguese.
“The language isn’t Spanish,” Daniel says, “yet the Galicians consider themselves to be Spaniards. They regard themselves as having a distinctive cultural identity that, at least so far, hasn’t motivated them to seek a distinct political identity like so many of the Basques and Catalans have.”
He loved living in Spain, and frequent visits from family members brought him a taste of home.
“But I hated missing birthdays and all the other things that gather entire families together. By November of 2019, I was ready to come home.”
The kind of curiosity that took Daniel throughout Spain and that has made him a natural for both journalism and teaching remains.
“Oh, and Sequoia National Park. That’s not as far as Yosemite, but the trip is still an all-weekend thing. I learned when I was in Europe that the people there are fascinated by the giant sequoias. But if I’ve done fifteen or twenty of these films, that tells you that I think there are a lot more things in California that will fascinate people.”