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November 1, 2019

Meet Spanish Teacher Elizabeth Sanchez

Elizabeth Sanchez: Spanish Teacher, Mountaineering Instructor

Elizabeth Sanchez is a fairly new addition to the Asheville School family; 2019 marks her third year of teaching Spanish in Mitchell’s hallowed halls. After studying at Chapel Hill and abroad in Granada, Spain, her love of classical art drove Sanchez to a career in the conservation of historical art for seven years; however, she now offers a multicultural approach to learning Spanish language, culture and literature from M315.

Sanchez firmly believes that preparing students to enter a multilingual, increasingly connected world is one of the most vital skills they can be taught. “Learning Spanish, or really learning any language, is so valuable,” she said. “The first step I find valuable is that it grows your empathy; if you can communicate with somebody on their level, in their language, it grows that interpersonal part of you.” To Sanchez, language functions as so much more than simply a way to hold a dialogue; communicating with someone else allows us to share a common experience and bond in ways a language barrier might prevent. “I’m really excited that Asheville School students can go out into the world maybe having a bigger heart.”

Sanchez also aims to educate her students on the ways that language and nationality impact how the world is operating, relating the theoretical to something practical in everyday life. “I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but I think it’s my responsibility to inform them about current events,” she responded when asked about her favorite aspect of teaching linguistics. Sanchez doesn’t discount her students’ investment in current events, but she enjoys providing a forum for deeper analysis and discussion of key issues in her classroom. “Sometimes it can get into serious discussions that are happening now, like immigration; I think it’s my obligation to create an informed student, and I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to share these headlines and news stories that I don’t think the students necessarily have time to look at themselves, yet it’s really important in the greater scheme of becoming a productive citizen of this country.” 

Sanchez does her best to emphasize the importance of experiencing diversity in her classroom. “I think that it’s about having access to alternative perspectives; when you know more diverse people, it just opens up your way of thinking,” she explained. “If you have a Mexican friend, all of a sudden, you’re more invested in knowing about Mexico. It’s just human nature. I think if we can diversify our population, that’s just going to be a benefit to everyone.”

She has a goal to provide students an opportunity to autonomously take responsibility and meaningfully contribute to some of the countries studied in her class: “I want to bring in something called Relief Box — it works for Venezuela, where they’re in desperate need of supplies,” Sanchez said. “You basically donate things as simple as toilet paper or toothpaste and get it down to Venezuela, where they’re lacking these kinds of goods.” She believes this can be a tool for teaching the ways in which language and communication can connect us, even over thousands of miles. “Again, my goal is to grow empathy; if I can teach my students that we’re so similar to the Venezuelan people and show them that they can help through a program like Relief Box, I think that’s a job well done.”