Ms. Barney says it’s been “a wonderful ride”


Abby Malakoff, Entertainment Editor

Spanish teacher Valerie Barney, a Middletown South veteran who is set to retire at the end of this school year, did not grow up speaking Spanish, but like most students, took it in high school and later on majored in it in college. Her high school Spanish teacher inspired her to pursue the language and to travel. 

 She studied abroad in Valencia, Spain, during her second year of study at the University of Virginia. She states, “it was life-altering and I became bilingual.”  She then moved there after graduation, and traveled around Europe for three months with “nothing but a backpack,” before settling down again in Valencia. She taught English and played and sang in restaurants at night. Barney returned to Valencia numerous times since then and says, “my favorite time was when I brought 25 Middletown South students with me!”  She has also taken South students to Costa Rica and Belize. Barney states on the trips, “Those memories will be with me, and I hope with them, forever.” 

Barney says that one of the biggest challenges of teaching is to try to get everybody as passionate about the subject as she is. She understands that Spanish may not be everybody’s thing and it can be a challenge to make learning fun for them. While this is true, she says that one of her favorite things about being a teacher is the ability to be creative with her teaching methods such as all the games, skits, and even puppet shows that Barney has her students do. She says they have “brought me to tears from laughter.” 

Barney also states that the overall best thing about teaching a language is hearing about when the students are able to use the language they learned in real life. 

“I will always cherish the moment where I pulled up in a parking lot at the Acme,” she remembers. “I saw a former student of mine that noticed a Hispanic man struggling with his bags.  I watched in awe as my student approached him and offered to help him in Spanish!  It honestly brought tears to my eyes.”

Barney says that after she retires, she plans to travel once again. She and her husband are restoring a 1974 Chris Craft boat that she can’t wait to get out on the river. She also looks forward to spending more time with her two children, two horses, and her dog and cat. She lastly will continue to enjoy running into former students around town. 

“Salud, it’s been a wonderful ride!”