Candice Sliney: "A True Professional With Insight, Knowledge, and Fairness"
As part of Marblehead Beacon’s Teacher Appreciation Week effort, we are highlighting select educators across Marblehead’s schools, focusing on some who were nominated by members of the community. Candice Sliney is a Spanish teacher at Marblehead High School who was nominated by a parent of one of her students, and is described as “an advocate for all students,” and as an exceptional Spanish teacher who often goes outside the box to provide the best education for her students.
Sliney grew up in Norwood, Massachusetts – just over an hour drive from Marblehead. Born the fourth of five children, Sliney speaks to the influence of her parents and her upbringing on her educational approach, noting that their household was “very disciplined and quite strict.” Her father, who served in the United States Marine Corps, was “very community oriented,” dedicating his later decades to environmental conservation, with a park eventually being built in his honor on land that he had helped to protect. He is now a familiar face to every student at Marblehead High School as a result of his role as a cafeteria monitor.
It was Sliney’s mother, however, who truly impacted her educational career; she ran a daycare out of her own home in Norwood, which was a facility often utilized by teachers at the schools in the area, so Sliney grew up surrounded by the individuals with whom she would share a job decades later. She mentions that one English teacher whose children attended the daycare “taught me how to drive because he insisted on driving with me to the high school when I got my permit.” She went on to explain the incredible impact of these teachers on her life, mentioning that “many of these teachers would end up coming to my wedding.” Sliney explains that “teachers were always a big part of my life,” and notes that her time spent as a dance instructor and a camp counselor also helped her recognize her passion for educating children.
Following high school, Sliney attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Latin American studies. She says that this was where her Spanish journey began, and “I absolutely loved it.” During the summer following her sophomore year, she got a job as part of the Madison Arcatao Sister City Project, and she ended up providing support for her boss while she served on delegations to El Salvador during that country's civil war. It was at this time that she was first “exposed to social justice and the [impact] of foreign policy.” She spent her senior year at the University of Madrid in Spain, which she found particularly meaningful because most of the students were actually from Spain as opposed to American exchange students, and she was therefore truly exposed to Spanish culture.
After college graduation, Sliney spent time in California as a retail sales representative for Gillette, but – citing a lack of passion and her sister’s soon-to-be-born triplets – she moved back to the East Coast, landing in Medfield. Once there, she pursued courses in education at Middlebury College and began her educational career, later moving to a position in Wakefield and eventually to her current post in Marblehead.
She has taught at Marblehead High School for the past 18 years and explains that her “favorite part of the job is the kids…their curiosity and excitement is what keeps me going.” Sliney prides herself on her ability to read her students and then adapt her lessons around how they are feeling. In some cases, she says, when the class is reviewing very dry Spanish literature or other more complex topics, she will incorporate movement into the lesson, “whether it be stretching or dancing” to keep the students engaged. She now manages the annual Latin dancing program in which students at Marblehead High School engage in Latin American culture through dance. She currently teaches Spanish at several different levels, and explains that regardless of whether she’s teaching more advanced students “to use the language in sophisticated ways” or teaching struggling students, she finds being able to assist their learning “very gratifying” and she “loves teaching everyone.”
Sliney spoke to the issues that she sees with the prevalence of technology, which is why she has a strict policy regarding cell phone usage in her classroom and often teaches lessons in which students must stand in opposing lines and directly interact with their classmates for the entirety of the period. She explains that she wants her classroom to be “a place that people want to be, and I always want [the students] looking forward to class” but that she “will not tolerate nonsense.” Sliney also notes that she always ensures that students know she is on their side and that she is “their biggest cheerleader,” emphasizing the importance of building relationships with her students.
Outside of school, Sliney enjoys gardening, dancing – specifically salsa dancing – and spending time with her husband and two daughters. She also enjoys traveling and has toured across much of Europe.
At the close of our interview, Sliney explains that there is a great deal of work going on behind the scenes that can be difficult for teachers and that this is certainly “the hard part,” but that she wakes up “happy and excited to teach” each and every morning.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that it was Sliney's boss, not Sliney herself, who spent time in El Salvador.