Tammie Dykhouse is bidding farewell to a wonderful career of immersing students in the language and cultural worlds of Spanish


Tammie Dykhouse

A photo of Spanish teacher Tammie Dykhouse, who is retiring after a 36-year-long career.

It did not take the entirety of her adolescence for Spanish teacher Tammie Dykhouse to know what she wanted to do for a living.

Teaching had always called her name ever since she was a kid. And, once she got older and was taking more Spanish classes, she knew that was the subject that she wanted to teach her future students.

“The teaching part just felt natural,” Dykhouse said. “I mean, as crazy as it sounds, I used to teach the kids my mom ran a daycare for. I used to run little classes and make things up for them when I was little. As soon as I took Spanish in high school, I knew that’s what I was going to do.”

36 years ago, Dykhouse began her journey as a teacher with one year at East Grand Rapids High School. Following that, she came straight to FHC. Ever since then, she has taught within the same walls and has proudly bled green without any regrets. 

I just love watching kids go from knowing nothing to what they can do at the end of the year.

— Tammie Dykhouse

Unfortunately, this will be Dykhouse’s final year teaching at FHC as she is retiring from the career that has brought her an incredible amount of joy and satisfaction.

Currently, Dykhouse teaches Spanish 1, Spanish 4, and AP Spanish. She gets students varying from beginners to almost fluent. She has the unique and rewarding opportunity to watch her students go from one side of the spectrum to the complete opposite.

“I just love watching kids go from knowing nothing to what they can do at the end of the year,” Dykhouse said. “And, especially when you get up to level four, when they come in, they’re not sure that they can speak in Spanish, but within a short time, they’re speaking in Spanish all the time. It’s just great to see the progress.”

A majority of students who go all the way through to AP Spanish with Dykhouse continue their journey with learning the language in college. A prime example of this is alumnus Linus Kaechele, who graduated in 2021. He is currently attending Michigan State University and is minoring in Spanish. Right now, he is studying abroad in Valéncia, Spain, over the summer.

Linus views Dykhouse as one of his favorite teachers that he has ever had. She has impacted him and the future he hopes to have more than she could ever realize. Linus is forever grateful for the two years that he was in class with Dykhouse because she truly changed his life for the better.

“I [still] think about the conversations I had with Señora very frequently,” Linus said. “When I was applying for colleges and getting my decisions back, I didn’t get into [the University of Michigan], and that shattered my world. Something that Señora told me was, ‘No es que donde vas, es que harás,’ [which means], ‘It’s not where you go, it’s what you do there.’ I can honestly say everything I’ve done since I had that conversation with her has been done through that perspective. She helps you see the bright side, and she helps you so much with your confidence because it makes sense. She builds up your confidence and lets you know that you can do it.”

Dykhouse’s teachings spread far beyond the confines of her classroom. Her daughter, Gabrielle Dykhouse, has also grown incredibly fond of the language growing up. She studied Spanish at the University of Michigan, and she is now in medical school in New York.

Having Señora as a teacher made me realize that speaking is an art form.You have to paint a story and sometimes you don’t have all the colors that you want to, especially when you’re not a native speaker of the language.

— Linus Kaechele

Gabrielle loved the fact that her mom was a teacher, especially in Spanish. She was able to receive mini lessons from her at home along with the teachings that Gabrielle obtained at school. She was immersed in the language of Spanish and an overall loving environment surrounding school.

“She instilled in me a love of learning,” Gabrielle said. “Because of that, I also had a huge appreciation for all my teachers growing up too. I saw how hard they worked and how much they had an impact on their students, and I was always able to appreciate that. And, because she was always so nurturing and helpful, she fostered all of my dreams that I wanted to pursue, regardless of what she thought. It was a very nurturing environment to grow up in.”

For her entire life, Gabrielle has known her mother as a teacher. She has watched her mom grow and thrive through the lessons that she taught to thousands of children, immersing them in the Spanish language and culture. 

Because of this, Dykhouse no longer teaching will be a major change in both Dykhouse’s and Gabrielle’s lives. However, Gabrielle is incredibly happy and excited for her nonetheless.

“I was proud of her,” Gabrielle said. “She worked so hard to make engaging activities for students, make things as interesting as possible, and try to convey all the knowledge she has. She deserves it. She’s worked so hard her whole career. [It’s] a little bittersweet because I just know [how] good [of a] job she does. And, it’s sad that there won’t be future students who get to enjoy her teaching as well. She definitely deserves a break, and she had a great career.”

The walls of FHC have known the familiarity of Dykhouse’s presence for over three decades now. It is hard to imagine what the school will be like without her there. She is known and loved by students and staff members alike, and all will miss her dearly.

Principal Steve Passinault acknowledges her time at the school very fondly. He is highly aware of the impact that Dykhouse has had on her students all these years and knows that no high school student will ever experience a class much like hers.

“[Dykhouse] is really strong in her content area,” Passinault said. “She knows not only the Spanish language, but she [also] has a really good grasp on how to teach kids [and] how to get students to really learn the language—not just on the surface, but being able to practice it and being able to speak it fluently and to understand it when others are speaking, which is not an easy task.”

With Dykhouse’s newfound time, she plans on traveling with her husband, who has retired just recently. She and her husband thought that the best idea was to retire at the same time so that they had more opportunities to spend time together.

As much as she has adored teaching, Dykhouse is in need of a change of scenery. While it may be difficult to say goodbye, discovering corners of the world beyond the ones found in FHC is something that she deserves to experience.

“I’ve [taught for] a long time,” Dykhouse said. “I’m ready to have a break and travel when I want instead of being on a school schedule. I’ve gone to school since I was five, and I’ve been on a school schedule since I was five . I’ve never been able to go somewhere in October or go somewhere in February or whenever I want to. And, it’ll be nice to do that, especially now that my daughter’s not living in [the] state.”

When Dykhouse announced to her classes that she was retiring, it was an incredibly difficult and emotional thing for her to do, as one would expect. She had to announce her departure from the school that housed some of her biggest milestones in life.

Even harder, she now has to say goodbye to her students, and her students have to say goodbye to her too. While graduated senior Megan Fox was shocked and distraught by the news, she decided to view it more optimistically.

“I was upset,” Megan said. “However, I am graduating, so I know that I wouldn’t have seen her as much. And, I’m excited that we’re entering our own different journeys at the same time. It’s kind of exciting because I can see her perspective a little bit more. Having graduated, I can see why she’s sad at the same time. I think we’re both excited.”

For the first three levels of Spanish in school, students are strictly learning vocabulary, grammar, and how to correctly use the complicated tenses of the language. Through those years, no matter how engaging the teacher may be, it can become monotonous. 

It is during Spanish 4 when the pace begins to quicken and students begin to learn how to improve their conversational Spanish and learn more about the different cultures of Spanish-speaking countries. This is when the passionate flame kindles one again, or, at least, that was how it was for Linus.

“I got to Spanish 4, and it was like, ‘this is what I’ve been missing,’” Linus explained. “It kind of all came back to me. I was like, ‘Spanish is kind of fun.’ It’s not just subjunctive; it’s little riddles every day of trying to say what you want to say but not having the tools to do it. Having Señora as a teacher made me realize that speaking is an art form. You have to paint a story, and sometimes, you don’t have all the colors that you want, especially when you’re not a native speaker of the language.”

One of the hardest things to let go of for Dykhouse will be the ability to provide the paints for her students to use and to assist them in creating a beautiful piece of art with their words. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially since she is saying goodbye to such a large part of her life. However, she is simply opening herself up to learning even more about herself and providing herself with more colors to create a painting of her own.

Dykhouse may be bidding farewell to FHC, but the memories she has created will never leave her. She may no longer be teaching, but she will forever be a teacher.

“I hope my kids see the difference in the world that I saw in them,” Dykhouse said. “I hope that they, through being in this class, have opened their eyes in the same way that I learned from them and watched them.”