How Outschool Teacher Jenniffer Saldaña Whyte Brings the World Into Her Classroom

For Teachers Jul 10, 2020

We recently spoke to Jenniffer Saldaña Whyte, who teaches Spanish, History, and Zumba(!) on Outschool. In addition to teaching this wide range of topics, Jenniffer has a wealth of experience in helping others learn about Afro-Latino culture.

During our conversation, Jenniffer told us about her teaching philosophy, her belief in civic and cultural engagement, and her teaching motto: “Bringing The World Into My Classroom.”

Hi, Jenniffer. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your teaching on Outschool?

I am a native of the Dominican Republic who resides in Alabama. My husband, a native of Panama, and I are pastors of an International Ministry where we do community outreach and travel to countries in Latin America to do missions, often medical missions.

I have my Bachelor's degree in Spanish Education from Jacksonville State University, and I'm currently working on my Master's Degree at Liberty University.

I am a mother of five children, three biological and two adopted. My two youngest boys have Autism, so we have had to be passionate and energetic to get through difficult times.

We can successfully say our boys have managed this condition without medication, and we are proud of that. I am a Spanish teacher certified for K-12. I teach in an independent school in Anniston, AL, where I teach Spanish enrichment to grades 1st-3rd and Spanish 1,2, and 3 to grades 9-12.

Jenniffer uses music to engage learners during one of her live classes.

Why did you begin teaching on Outschool?

I began teaching at Outschool so that I could continue to teach Zumba classes during the pandemic period.

Everything in town was shutting down, so I prepared to list my first section at Outschool called Zumba for Kids. I have been teaching Zumba for 11 years, and I’m licensed in:

  • Zumba
  • Zumba for Kids
  • Zumba Gold (for those only mobile in a chair)
  • Zumba Toning
  • Aqua Zumba

There was no opportunity for me to teach Zumba Kids in my area, so I offered it on Outschool and it has been a hit! When Summer arrived and I did not have any other teaching commitments, I began to teach Spanish, more Zumba classes, and classes about culture.

We’ve heard that teaching on Outschool for you is a family affair - is that correct?

Yes, I recruited my daughter Ariel Whyte, a college student, to Outschool, and she has not regretted it.

She is having such a great time and is relieved that she no longer has to work at a fast-food restaurant, since she is allergic to every tree in Alabama and has been wearing a mask for years just to not breathe in the pollen and other particles that make her sick.

Jenniffer teaches a live Zumba class for kids.

You teach in person and online. How do those roles differ and overlap?

Both teaching styles are different. All the activities are different. While in the live and online classrooms, I do focus on the students' senses. I make sure that in every lesson they’ve listened to something, discussed a topic, and saw a visual of something through video or photos.

With both types of teaching, I can do these things. With a live class, I can use the senses of touch, smell, and taste when online I cannot. This does not stop me from sharing my passion for teaching to my students.

Instead, online, I encourage students to explore and further the information I give them. I have to think of ways to play games that are not just technological, even though I love to play Kahoot and Trivia.

Teaching online has truly pushed me to be even more creative. I have discovered things about myself I never knew.

For example, I recently included playing Pictionary where the students use their own paper and markers to share with the class how they feel about something, or rock, paper, scissors revamped to show understanding of a concept, or for a multiple-choice formative assessment.

Teaching online has truly pushed me to be even more creative. I have discovered things about myself I never knew. My dream of having my own TV show comes true as I create teaching video lessons for my students in a sitcom-type of way.

Jenniffer teaching Zumba at the Quintard Mall in Anniston, Alabama.

Why have you chosen to teach several subjects instead of focusing on one?

At Outschool, I can teach whatever I am passionate about. Online or in a live class, I've always taught Spanish, English, culture, and dance fitness. This has been the norm for me.

I teach after school and on weekends in order to give my full attention to my classroom students during the week. I am very energetic. To keep my creativity alive, and to be able to expand my thoughts of how I can make things better, I prefer to teach several different types of classes.

I love to teach students from the youngest to the oldest. This helps me understand their development better and compare and contrast how each age group reacts to certain things.

I've always been a person who wears many hats, and in education, I have carried that same concept. My philosophy is "Bringing the World into My Classroom," which means that with all the traveling I do, I always think of my students and bring back with me the culture, the food, the fashion, and anything I can bring back to give them an experience of the culture around the world.

Jenniffer wearing a bee keeping outfit in a video recorded for her learners.

Speaking of culture, you teach a class called Exploring Afro-Latino Culture. Can you tell us about that class and why you like to teach it?

Exploring Afro-Latino culture is actually my niche. I have been presenting this topic to Spanish teachers for a few years now. I am invited to local, state, and national conventions to educate Spanish teachers about the importance of incorporating Black history throughout their curriculum all year round.

I'm confident to know that my students have learned a lot and hopefully will be citizens of this country who will pay close attention to injustices that happen around them.

As active as I am with my students, I am as active with Spanish teachers all over the U.S. I do have a following of teachers through my page on Facebook: Incorporating Afro-Latino Culture in Spanish Classrooms. This group has allowed me to see that Spanish teachers and many other types of teachers lack the knowledge and understanding that Afro-Latinos are hidden, rejected, and not given enough importance.

I am proud to teach this culture throughout the year in my classroom, and I'm confident to know that my students have learned a lot and hopefully will be citizens of this country who will pay close attention to injustices that happen around them, which they normally ignore because it has nothing to do with them. I have created a safe place for them to talk about things that they may not want to ask others.

With love and care, I hope that they model my behavior towards concepts of culture they do not understand. This by far is my favorite part of teaching. I don't only teach Spanish, I teach a world of culture that comes with studying Latin America, Spain, and Africa with their positive and negative connections.

With Hispanics being the largest minority group in the United States, it is time that everyone understands that some of us are black, some white, other native, and many mixed. The ones who are black are the majority who are ignored.

What else are you excited about when it comes to Outschool?

I just had another class approved! It is called "Enough is Enough! Blacks in Latin America, a hidden and rejected culture erupts." This class will be teaching students about the history, culture, injustices, stereotypes, and anger within the Afro-Latino community.

With the current events going on, students will be able to discuss in this class why people are so angry right now. I'm hoping this class will help many students understand the struggles that Blacks have gone through for centuries through the eyes of Latin America.

To learn more and enroll your learner in one of her classes, you can explore Jenniffer’s Outschool teacher profile here.

Gerard Dawson

Gerard Dawson is a teacher, parent and writer for Outschool.