A: I spent the summer of 1999 answering phones in the un-airconditioned law offices of two Colombian brothers who defended the vast majority of Spanish speakers in Nashville at the time. Armed with a few semesters of college Spanish, I interned as their secretary. I answered the phone, “Ramos and Ramos, this is Eva….Sí, hablo español,” and passed the hours trying to understand the stories that followed that statement. The responsibility to decipher and relay those messages from strings of sentences, spoken in various Spanish dialects, was challenging but exhilarating and that summer I became obsessed with learning Spanish.
All summer I pestered my co-worker Juan, a law student from San Salvador, with “¿Cómo se dice this?” and “¿Cómo se dice that?” One afternoon Juan did not respond with his usual explanations. Instead, he picked up the phone and made a call. At a pause in the conversation, Juan passed me the receiver and casually said, “Say hello to my mom, she’ll be in El Salvador in July and would love for you to come visit.” I traveled to El Salvador and stayed with my friend’s family for a month. I ate pupusas, watched fútbol and listened to their stories of the guerra civil. I traveled to Guatemala and climbed the ancient Mayan ruins in Tikal. I was nineteen, and even then, I could recognize that this trip would change the course of my life.
I returned from my time in Central America deeper in love with the Spanish language. I signed up for more courses, but with a newfound awareness of the world outside of my own, I recognized that taking additional classes was not enough. Wanting to see and learn more, I applied to study abroad in Spain and departed the next semester. It was during one of my classes that met each week at the Prado museum, that I decided to change my major from English to Spanish.
I graduated with a BA in Spanish from Vanderbilt, and at twenty-two, with no formal training, I was offered a position teaching at Hillsboro High School. I assumed at the time that I would teach for a year, and then figure out what I would do with the rest of my life. I am thirty-three now and what I have done with the rest of my life is teach. Hired as one of the founding faculty members at Ensworth, I have worked the last eight years teaching Spanish, levels 1-4. I have learned and grown so much in my time here and my position at EHS has also afforded me the opportunity to return to Spain and to visit Peru, chaperoning students with their own burgeoning love of the language. I even made a summer trip back to Central America, this time to take classes at La Escuela del Sol in Montezuma, Costa Rica and to attend the AATSP conference in San José. I have loved teaching and coaching here at “the E” and will greatly miss my students and colleagues in the upcoming year.
Q: You also coach the State Champions Girls Volleyball Team…tell us what you love about that. Did you play volleyball in college? How does that enhance your job at Ensworth.
A: Coaching is a huge part of who I am and what I do at Ensworth. I played volleyball and basketball for a year in college, before transferring to Vanderbilt. I began coaching when I was a senior at Vandy and was the head coach at Hillsboro High School and Harpeth Hall before coming to Ensworth, the first year of the high school. It has been such a privilege and a unique opportunity to be a part of building a program from the ground up. When I arrived at EHS, eight years ago, we began with a ninth grade team. The second year, with just freshmen and sophomores, we were competing at the varsity level, which was an awesome but often humbling experience. Each year the program has gotten a little stronger and each year we have advanced a little further in post-season play. Winning back-to-back state championships was incredible, but to be honest it was never something talked a lot about. Our focus has always been on the match in front of us and on the hard work, discipline and preparation required of us to compete to the best of our ability. Winning matches and championships has really just been the bi-product of that work and preparation. In volleyball we play a lot of matches over the course of a season. There will always be wins and losses, success, triumph, heartache and disappointment. It is therefore imperative to maintain perspective. I am always trying to remind myself and the girls that what is most important is that we support each other, learn from one another, and enjoy our journey together
Q: Next year you will be taking a sabbatical to Spain. Share with the community what that will look like. It sounds amazing!!
A: I am about to embark on the adventure of heading back to school to get my Masters in Spanish. I will be earning an MA in Spanish through Middlebury College and will spend the summer taking classes in Vermont and the 2012/2013 school year taking classes in Madrid. I believe that the best educators are committed life long learners. I have served the last eleven years in the classroom as a teacher and am excited about the prospect of being a student again. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to truly live the language again, immersing myself in it 100% of every day as I ask my students to do 100% of every class. I am sad to leave EHS for a year but am confident that I will return a rejuvenated and better version of the teacher I am today.
Q: If you aren’t at school, where can we find you?
Q: Who is someone who has influenced you the most and why?
A: My mother is the person who has influenced me the most. She is an incredible woman. She has endured a lot of hardship in her life and has always maintained such a hopeful and positive perspective. My mom has given me the greatest gifts of unconditional love and support and has modeled the kind of humility, compassion, faith and courage that I can only hope to emulate in my own life. She suffered a hemorrhagic stroke two years ago, which left her virtually paralyzed on the left side of her body. Watching her relearn to walk at 60 years old has been painful, but I am in awe of her undying strength and fight. As a coach, I have talked many times about the power of the “will to win” and I am inspired everyday by my mother’s will to live and to use her life experience and the hardships she has endured to minister to others.
A: I would like to hear from Tish Pilkerton next. I distinctly remember watching Tish play basketball when she was in high school and thinking to myself that she was the kind of competitor that any coach would want as a player and any player would want as a teammate. I have since loved getting to know Tish and to work with her. I understand that she has exciting news regarding upcoming nuptials this summer and would love to hear more about it.