We Are Hotty Toddys

Today my Spanish 4 class learned a code word. They had guests… and their guests brought them swag bags… and in those swag bags were pins that said… Hotty Toddy. They were so confused. But before I reveal the secret code, let me tell you more about our guests!

Kayla VonBurg, Office of Admissions University of Mississippi

This is Kayla VonBurg (soon to be King). I taught Kayla. Kayla was one of my first students to earn the Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy in 2015. After graduating high school, Kayla was planning to be a doctor… much like I (once upon a time)… was planning to be a doctor and then the Spanish bug hit her and she… much like I (once up on a time)… realized her calling was education. But unlike me, Kayla’s calling is much higher education! She’s in her doctoral program at Ole Miss!! So she’ll still be a doctor! Just not the kind she imagined in 2015.

During her years in Mississippi, Kayla was enrolled in the Honors College, spent some time at Croft Institute, did a study abroad in Madrid, went Greek, got a Master’s degree… she has outpaced me and is half my age!

So now Kayla is working in the admissions office at Ole Miss and doing AMAZING things like starting a closet full of school supplies for students who don’t have access to what they need to be successful in their classes and visiting high school classrooms like mine to talk about all the scholarships available for students at her university.

Kayla, along with her superstar colleagues Adonis and Lucy, came not once, but TWICE, to my school today. (they drove an hour to a different school then back to me in between) They met with my Spanish 4 classes to talk about international opportunities and ways that my students could get the BEST education for the lowest cost around. What I loved most was hearing Adonis talk about the experience at Croft Institute! Croft is literally ALL ABOUT LANGUAGES. It is built to help our students (no matter their future plans) use language to further their careers and to find their home in major corporations, the global workforce, or government agencies. (IT WAS SO COOL, FRIENDS!)

They told them about the teaching program at Ole Miss… did you know that their Teaching Excellence program lets teacher candidates attend for FREE if they work in Mississippi public schools for 5 years after graduation… AND it includes a study abroad???

They told them about scholarships for SAT scores… over a 1450 and you go for free… over 1200, sliding scale of tuition reduction. It’s like they’re throwing money at the kids! 🙂 AND they’re telling them about all the ways they can use their language in careers like engineering, law, medicine, business, journalism, law enforcement through Croft!

I spend so much time talking to my classes about their proficiency, the Seal of Biliteracy, the value of micro-credentials. (Linda Egnatz would be so proud of me.) I feel like this visit drove home everything I have said. The need for bilinguals is HUGE and it isn’t JUST as language teachers (although we need a ton of them too).

My Spanish 4s were sold on being Hotty Toddys (this is the greeting at Ole Miss… when you see others in Ole Miss gear you know they know so you can say Hotty Toddy like hello… and in a great feat of cultural connection they said… oh it’s like Pura vida in Costa Rica). We hope our experience will help you think of ways to make language learning have solid pathways leading into your students’ future careers! Thanks again to Kayla, Adonis, and Lucy for a WONDERFUL day!


  1. This is so AWESOME! I’d love for her to visit my school and talk to my classes. Is this part of her job or just a special favor to you as her former teacher? (in case she does I’m in Georgia soooo much closer if that helps). Thank you for sharing!

  2. What a great opportunity for your students! So special to see the fruit of the impact that you are making in the lives of others. Will you tell us about your super cool artwork on the wall (los esqueletos y la mariposas)? Gracias!

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