Knowing the Language is Understanding the World

A profile about Spanish teacher Anna Montserrat and her teaching career.

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Many of us know her as Señora Montserrat: the Spanish III, Advanced Placement (AP) Spanish, and Spanish Cinema teacher. What students don’t know, however, is that she is an avid swimmer, is part of a women’s choir, and loves to travel. Anna Montserrat’s love for teaching and learning new languages led her to work as a Spanish teacher.

Montserrat grew up in Barcelona, Spain, where she spoke both Spanish and Catalan. Catalan, another language commonly spoken in Spain, is a Western Romance language and the only official language of the country of Andorra. Montserrat is very passionate about learning languages; in addition to speaking both Spanish and Catalan, she studied French and Italian throughout her youth in Barcelona and later English after arriving in the United States.

Montserrat discovered her love for teaching while working at a community center in Spain, where she organized various activities for children and teenagers, such as camping and skiing. She also taught a bit of Spanish there, which later inspired her to become a teacher. As a young adult, Montserrat was very passionate about theater and studied at the Institut del Teatre de Barcelona for a year. Her love of learning and teaching languages, however, triumphed over her interest in theater.

When Montserrat was 26 years old, she moved to America. Prior to coming to America, she received her bachelor’s degree in education at the University of Barcelona. After arriving in the U.S., Montserrat got her master’s degree in education at Queens College.

Montserrat’s teaching career began at John Bowne High School in Queens. She soon discovered, however, that she wanted to teach a different group of students: “I needed a change in my career, teaching other types of students, students that were eager to learn, ready to surpass teacher expectations, students intellectually engaged,” she explained. She ended up finding exactly the right place.

After teaching at John Bowne for five years, Montserrat came to Stuyvesant. At Stuyvesant, she found herself teaching a completely different type of student, just as she had wanted. “The students are very motivated, well-rounded, and very interesting,” she described. Montserrat has found that as a teacher, one of the most important things is being able to teach students who are motivated, and she encountered this experience at Stuyvesant. She spoke fondly of her students, explaining, “[Stuyvesant students] want to learn the language and make A's. They want to go beyond just learning the grammar. They just want to know more about the culture. And this is what keeps me going.”

Montserrat feels that “knowing the language is understanding the world.” For her, Spanish is not just about understanding the grammar, but understanding beyond: how the world works and truly knowing the language. “Learning a language is how you understand specific cultures, specific countries,” Montserrat explained.

Montserrat’s favorite part about teaching is talking to her students and asking them questions about different topics. In her AP Spanish class, Montserrat enjoys discussing a wide range of topics with her students, including social media, immigration, discrimination, climate change, and more. These are all important issues in the world today that her students feel engaged with.

In her free time, Montserrat is fond of swimming, loves to sing in a women’s choir, and is an avid traveler. She has traveled to most Latin American countries, including Colombia, Ecuador, and Guatemala. Her favorite country to visit is Mexico, where she has visited at least 11 times. “Mexico is a huge country with amazing people, different cultures, different languages, […] you really have to go several times to different parts of Mexico because each part, every time I go, is different,” she described. Montserrat has loved all of the countries she has been able to see, saying, “Every single one has my heart.”

Though Montserrat enjoys engaging in many other hobbies, teaching and learning new languages are Montserrat’s priority. For her, being a teacher means being someone who cares about others and in this case, her students. Montserrat understands the importance of being able to understand her students and their struggles. She tries to do so by “being a teacher in front of my students and understanding them, what they're going through, the hard work that they put in, the stress they have, and so on.”

When asked what kind of advice Montserrat has for her students or for others who are passionate about languages, she recommended traveling, studying abroad, and stepping outside of their comfort zone. Montserrat emphasized, “Discover, connect, interact with other cultures, with other languages, with other countries, and become an understanding global citizen.”