Nathan Hale High School Profe Geboy-Helfenstein Leads Her Students Worldwide

Nathan Hale High School Profe Geboy-Helfenstein Leads Her Students Worldwide
Posted on 12/09/2019
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In 1983, the Oconomowoc Rotary Club to sponsored a young, earnest adventurer in her quest to spend junior year abroad. It was a life-changing event for Nathan Hale High School’s Spanish “Profe” (aka teacher) Bridget Geboy-Helfenstein. 

According to Geboy-Helfenstein, "In my sophomore year, a young woman I knew from church came to my Spanish class to talk to about spending her school year in Brazil. It solidified my desire to study abroad and fortunately, I applied. The Rotary Club’s faith in me and my ability to represent our state, changed the course of my life. I am forever grateful.”

Geboy-Helfenstein traveled with eight Rotary Youth Exchange Students that left the midwest and headed to South America. “I spent my senior year in Ecuador. I was the most prepared because I could communicate in Spanish. I was able to adapt and thrive in my new home and school,” said Geboy-Helfenstein.

 

Studying in an all-girls school allowed Geboy-Helfenstein to follow her passions. She was in choir and was chosen to sing the Ecuadorian National Anthem for the President of Ecuador when he came to visit.  

She also served as an interpreter for a medical brigade of Rotarians who came to operate on children and people in need of significant surgery for cleft lips and palates.

“While in Ecuador, my Mamá Ecuatoriana told me that I should be a US Peace Corps Volunteer. I had never heard of the Peace Corps and that comment also changed the trajectory of my life.”  

Once home, Geboy-Helfenstein attended Wartburg College majoring in Spanish and Education. After she graduated from college, she applied to be part of the US Peace Corps. “I was in the Peace Corps for two and a half years living in Honduras, Central America,” recalls Geboy-Helfenstein. “As I was finishing up, I knew I wanted a career in teaching. I arrived home December 20, 1990 and was hired by the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District to teach Spanish at Nathan Hale High School starting on January 21. I’ve been here ever since!”

Throughout her teaching career, Geboy-Helfenstein has been instrumental in connecting students to the Spanish language and Latino culture. “My travel experiences were so life-changing. I want students to know there is a whole world out there filled with opportunity and adventure.”

In 1993, Geboy-Helfenstein co-led her first of many study abroad trips. “Our trips involve intensive language study, a homestay with a family, and time for sightseeing. We’ve gone to Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize and Ecuador. Next year, I am hoping to take students to Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires and Ushuaia in Argentina with a possible homestay in Patagonia (glaciers and penguins). I am really glad that students from both Hale and Central have participated in the past and look forward to an amazing group from both schools in 2021. We’ve had great trips together over the years.”




Today Geboy-Helfenstein holds the title of “Longest Serving Teacher Still Working at Hale.”  “I have worked at Hale for 29 years. Former students that are now parents sign their children up for my classes -- that must be a sign of getting old!"

Geboy-Helfenstein has two sons, Ethan (20) and Elijah (19) with her husband Rob Helfenstein. She jokes that she must have done something wrong - Elijah chose German over Spanish in high school.  

“Time goes by quickly...it’s ever changing and ever the same. Students have always been anxious to learn about the world around them. I’ve had the special privilege of helping them experience more than just a language. Beyond reading, writing, listening and speaking, our classes involve the study of another culture and its people. We learn to walk in each other’s shoes and when we travel together, we take a bold step into the world. It’s such an honor to help shape students into the adults they want to become just as someone did for me years ago.”