Lara Dolphin

World Language Chair
Basketball Coach

Lara joined the Pine Point faculty in 1999. She holds a B.A. from the University of Iowa.

Spanish teacher and World Language Department Chair Lara Dolphin has always been interested in people from other places. She grew up in a family that regularly hosted students from around the world. Some stayed for a month, others as long as a year, and several visitors remain dear friends. Sharing a home with people from other countries, coupled with her parents’ love of travel and different cultures, instilled a deep curiosity in Lara. “I’ve always been intrigued by other people’s stories: their daily routines, how they celebrate, the ways their culture influences who they are and what they do.” Lara pursued her interest in global cultures by studying Spanish at the University of Iowa and spending time living abroad in Santiago, Chile before joining the School’s World Languages faculty in 1999.

At Pine Point, the World Language Department’s mission is to acquire and build proficiency as well as to acquire an understanding of (and appreciation for) other cultures and the value of communicating in another language. The program begins in kindergarten, where students study both French and Spanish, and language is used as a vehicle to reinforce concepts through interactive and hands-on activities. In 6th grade, students begin to study Latin, and also choose to study either French or Spanish for the remainder of their time in the middle school. Lara teaches Spanish to ten different grades at Pine Point–kindergarten through 9th grade.

Lara’s passion for learning more about world cultures informs and influences her teaching. “Culture offers context for learning. It provides the framework for understanding, the base on which to build knowledge as well as relationships. Cultural awareness is an essential component to education.” The Pine Point curriculum is strengthened by cross-disciplinary collaboration, and Lara works closely with her colleagues in helping students to discover how understanding language is intricately tied to understanding culture. The content-related program in the lower school is further enhanced and developed in language, art, library, music, and dance classes. For example, in addition to studying a unit about birds in science class, the impact of their migratory patterns might also be discussed in social studies, names and colors reviewed in language classes, drawing silhouettes and feathers the focus of art classes, reading and conducting research about different species during library class and imitating the pattern of flight featured in dance and movement. Lara says “Seeing collaboration within the faculty has a powerful impact on students: they then want to do that, too. This approach is a core component of our curriculum.”

This fall, Lara was asked to present more about Pine Point’s approach to cross-disciplinary teaching to fellow members of the Connecticut Council of Language Teachers (COLT) during their annual conference. Her session, “Integrating Bilingual Children’s Books Across the Content Areas,” offered professional colleagues data-supported rationale for including bilingual books among their curriculum resources, as well as practical suggestions about how to use these as teaching tools. Lara’s session was very well received. In fact, she has already been invited to present at next year’s conference. COLT colleagues, hearing about Pine Point’s approach to collaborative teaching and world languages, were so impressed and inspired they asked “Are there any job openings? I’d love to teach there!”