Mrs. Setterlun Interview

Written by Anya Hubbard

“I did not want to be a teacher.”  When Mrs. Setterlun was in high school she attended Ripon High School in Central Wisconsin. She knew that she did not want to be in a very small town and at the time her interests were focused on Spanish and international business. When in high school, Mrs. Setterlun’s biggest inspiration was her dad. Her dad was very encouraging about leaving the country, exploring other cultures, and taking risks. He was also very clear about following your passion but making sure that you can support yourself along the way. She still remembers her dad’s wise words, “Don’t think [that] you can rely on someone else–do something productive, but follow your heart too.”  With the encouragement to leave the country, Mrs. Setterlun left her junior year of high school for an exchange program for 10 weeks in Costa Rica. The exchange program, AFS, invited 45 students from all over the United States and Mrs. Setterlun was one of the only two students from Wisconsin! When asked about her experience she says, “That was my first experience really being self-reliant. It was my first experience of really breaking the code of Spanish in the country.  It was my first experience of really doing something hard, all by myself.”  This exchange program experience helped to shape her future career path. Mrs. Setterlun thinks that she may have ended up in business, but not that happy because “[business] doesn’t really have the spark, the discoveries that language and travel allow you to have. I think I might have found a niche, but this [Spanish] is the perfect niche.”

After debating between Marquette and St. Norbert for college, Mrs. Setterlun decided that St. Norbert was the way to go. In college Mrs. Setterlun knew for sure that she did not want to be a teacher, however, she was not a big fan of her accounting classes and her other heavy math classes. For this reason, she changed her major. Mrs. Setterlun was no longer working on international business, but rather international studies. Teaching was far from her plans for the future; she explains, “I never considered teaching. My dad encouraged me to be a teacher and I said no, I don’t want to be a teacher. I will use my skills, and intercultural competence, and language, in someplace, but not a classroom.” However, when in graduate school, Mrs. Setterlun was offered a TA-ship. This position was a great deal considering that it would pay for her out of state tuition which was quite expensive. She willingly took the position and taught Spanish 1 and 2 for a year. She then revealed that she liked it by saying, “I liked it a lot! It was my first real teaching experience and I did very well. I was young, I was about 24 and I was teaching students who were older than I was, but it went really well.” `

Mrs. Setterlun pursued her career as a teacher and loves her job. She then got married and decided to adopt three wonderful kids. Mrs. Setterlun says that ever since she was young she has wanted to adopt. She says that adoption has always been an interest to her. She specifies, “An interest in being open to other cultures, and I think also fostering an identity in children who really did not have the privilege of parents who could help them with identity.” Mrs. Setterlun confirms that she is not Guatemalan, but she is actually Scandinavian. Even though her family is filled with different ethnicities, she says that she and her husband have done a good job of helping their kids understand their own ethnic identity as well as just their place in life. She has two boys who both work in the foodservice and use their Spanish regularly through their job. Mrs. Setterlun said that both of her sons see having a second language as a very practical skill. “My oldest son, Andres, was adopted when he was five, he spoke fluent Spanish. He uses his Spanish regularly because he works for Jimmy Johns.”  She then goes into more detail about her second son. “My second son, Alejandro, lives in Madison, and he also is in foodservice. He doesn’t speak fluent Spanish; I’d say functional Spanish. They need it for practical reasons, but they’re not passionately interested in it like me. I look at it [Spanish] from an academic perspective, they look at it from a practical perspective.”

When asked if society should be able to speak another language she states, “Absolutely! No question. We are an intercultural society and because I don’t think that we can truly be compassionate people, living on the same planet unless we understand the language, the culture, viewpoints, and values of others. We cannot live in isolation, we are interdependent, and language is the vehicle to arrive at understanding.”  Mrs. Setterlun furthers her answer when stating that high schools should offer a code system for students. Mrs. Setterlun agrees that a language or code system should be required if the rules are very flexible. For students with language disabilities, ASL should be an option because it is not writing based. This way, kids with said disabilities will not have to struggle to fill their high school’s language requirement.

Lastly, Mrs. Setterlun speaks about what it is like to teach heritage speakers versus non-heritage speakers. She explains that for heritage speakers, they need to deconstruct and reconstruct to understand. She also states that heritage speakers are constantly immersed in the language, so the learning process is different. Mrs. Setterlun thinks that it is also extremely important for heritage students to also learn a foreign language, a completely different code system. She furthers this statement by saying, “You’re acquiring not just a whole new language, but you’re acquiring an understanding of how you operate with your first language and how you use your first language… It gives you a much stronger baseline when you attack a different code system.” Mrs. Setterlun then finishes her interview with a genius message. She says, “It’s only by learning a completely different language, that you really truly understand your own.”


About the author

Anya Hubbard