Señora Matous: Maestra de Español

Caroline Albacete '17, Editor-in-Chief

Ms. Matous is OCHS’s substitute Spanish teacher for the first semester while Mrs. Tonicini is away on maternity leave. She is a bright and engaging teacher with (coming from someone raised in a bilingual household), a nice accent. I had the opportunity to interview her for our newspaper, and here were some of the questions I asked, along with her responses:

Caroline: Where are you from originally, and what brought you to Pittsburgh?

Ms. Matous: I grew up in Indiana County, on a farm where my parents still live.  It is about an hour and a half east of Pittsburgh. I moved away after leaving school, but recently I returned to Western Pennsylvania in order to be closer to my family for awhile. I like to drive out on weekends to help my Dad with cutting trees, hanging the blueberry nets, or other things that he has trouble doing alone.

Caroline: How and where did you learn Spanish?

Ms. Matous: I learned Spanish after moving to Mexico to work as a lay missionary.  For four years, I was living in a town in the northern desert of Coahuila where nobody spoke English.  Even the English teacher did not speak English! It had never been my plan to go to Mexico; since I was young, I had always wanted to be a missionary in Africa, and for that reason in school I had studied French. But when the organization I joined said that I would temporarily go to Mexico, I put my heart and soul into learning the Mexican culture. I had brought some books with me and a big Spanish-English dictionary. During they day I worked at various kinds of ministry, and at night and in my free time I taught myself Spanish.

Later I studied at a language school in Cuernavaca, but I think that the majority of what I learned came through my conversations with all the people I met and from reading.  

Caroline: How do you like teaching at OCHS so far? Do you like the all girls’ environment?  

Ms. Matous: I really enjoy so much the students at Oakland Catholic. The best thing about teaching for me is getting to know my students: their personalities, individual gifts, and the ways that they grow and learn. This is definitely true for me at Oakland. I see a lot of kindness and caring in the girls here. I feel very touched in my heart when I read an essay or hear a comment in class and encounter a beautiful insight or a thoughtful question — and this happens often. Then I feel grateful that I was allowed to see that; it is like God has allowed me to see a little bit of the goodness that he has placed inside of each one of you. I find also find that the staff and the other teachers have a wonderful attitude and are a good example to me.

Yes, I like the all-girls’ environment. But it is not my first time in an all-girls’ environment so it seems very natural to me.

Caroline: Where do you plan to go after Oakland?

Ms. Matous: After leaving Oakland, I will be going to Connecticut to begin a work-study at Holy Apostles’ in Cromwell. I will be doing graduate work in Catholic theology while starting an ESL (English as a Second Language) support program for the international students. My goal is to finish my Master’s in Theology before returning to mission work. I still have my unfinished goal of going to Africa, which I have had since I was ten years old.

Caroline: Which is your favorite Spanish class ;)?   

Ms. Matous: Oh no, not a fair question!! That is kind of like me asking my mom which is her favorite son or daughter…

Caroline: Do you have any advice for those planning to learn or currently studying Spanish?

Ms. Matous: Something that helps a great deal is to not be afraid of making mistakes.  Everyone knows that little children just seem to “pick up” language, whereas when we are older it seems more difficult. One reason for this is that little children are not afraid of making mistakes. They make a lot of mistakes when they are learning, but they don’t care. This kind of attitude can be very helpful in learning Spanish! To really acquire another language, we need to use it as much as possible. When we feel too nervous about making mistakes, we can be afraid to even open our mouths to try. We can feel paralyzed or have “writer’s block”. I had this problem sometimes myself. It is important to have a positive feeling about communicating in another language. The teenagers I worked with in Mexico had a great time laughing at all my Spanish mistakes. I really felt like a celebrity comedian sometimes! I figured that I would probably never be so funny and entertaining again so I should enjoy it while it lasted. Gradually my Spanish improved, and that is the case for everyone. We all learn by making mistakes!