Q&A with Spanish Teacher Melanie Morton
Melanie Morton, Mustang Mountain’s newest Spanish teacher, earned a Bachelors degree in Spanish and Master of Arts and Teaching from the University of Memphis and an Education Specialist degree from Walden University.
With about 17 total years of teaching under her belt, she comes to CAC from Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis where she taught “everything from Spanish I to AP Language and Culture to AP Literature in Spanish to Honors II and Honors III.”
Read more about Melanie, her family and why she believes genuineness is important in the classroom:
Tell us a little about you, your family and what brought you to Little Rock.
My husband Ben and I have been married since 2001, but I’ve known him since the 8th grade – we dated off and on through high school. We have three boys – Nathan is in 7th grade, Ethan is in 4th and Christian is in the 1st grade. I grew up in Memphis, and was fortunate enough to live in Spain for three years while in college through the exchange program.
We moved to Little Rock because my husband got a job transfer to work with ARORA (Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency). We had lived in Memphis for forever, so it was really hard to leave. Our whole family is there – both of our parents and siblings.
I first started teaching in 2001, but I took a couple of years off and worked at International Paper for a while in their international sales to Spain and Latin America. It only took me a couple of years to quickly learned that my passion was in teaching and not in international business!
You lived in Spain for three years! That’s incredible. Can you talk about what inspired your love of the Spanish language and why you chose to take part in the overseas program?
It was really funny – I didn’t want to take Spanish in high school because the guy I had a crush on took Latin. I begged my parents to let me take Latin, but they said Spanish would be so much more useful for me. So, against my will, they put me in a Spanish class. I had the worst attitude about being in there. I was giving the teacher such a hard time and she came over to me and said, “Wow Melanie, you’re going to do really well in here because you have to be completely willing to make fool of yourself in a foreign language class.” After that I immediately had so much respect for her because she made it clear that she wasn’t afraid of me or intimidated by my attitude. I loved her. Spanish was the only class that I didn’t have to study for – I just understood it and I clicked with the teacher. Thankfully, I had her for three years and she was a tremendous influence in my life. She was the one who encouraged me to pursue a career in Spanish.
What do you enjoy about being a teacher? What do you love about being in the classroom?
There’s a quote in the movie “Chariots of Fire” where the main character’s sister doesn’t want him to run and he says, “But I feel God’s pleasure. I feel that God takes great pleasure in what I’m doing.” And I feel the same way about teaching. I’m really good at it – and I don’t mean that to brag, but He’s given me a talent for it and I feel a lot of happiness being able to do it. I love to see kids “get it” and to help them realize that they have the capability to understand a foreign language.
After almost 17 years of teaching experience, what is a universal truth that you’ve come to believe is true no matter what classroom you’re in?
That’s a hard one! But I truly believe that students who know that you genuinely care about them will work hard for you, even if they don’t like the subject.
The entire way I approach teaching is based on my relationship with the kids. I want to be genuine with them. So I would tell any teacher – if you’re having a bad day, it’s okay to tell your students, “Today is a bad day. I’m going to do the very best I can, so let’s work on this together.” Instead of trying to fake it or acting like you have it all together…I feel like the kids need to know that adults don’t have it all together. We can’t expect the kids to be perfect because we aren’t perfect. When you’re genuine with the kids, I think they see that and they respect that.
Why, in your opinion, is it so important for students to learn Spanish or any foreign language?
I feel that knowing a foreign language, and yes, mine happens to be Spanish, but I would support any foreign language, will help students no matter their path in life. If you know Spanish you can be more successful whether you are a mechanic, or a doctor, or a lawyer. If you can communicate with people in a different language, it’s going to put you a step ahead of the rest.
Some of my former students are now missionaries in Ecuador. They are using their language education to serve others and I think that’s a beautiful thing. It’s inspiring to think that I taught them how to conjugate a verb and now they’re sharing God’s love with so many people in a different country. There are just endless possibilities with knowing a foreign language, what it can do for you, and how it can set you apart.
Do you have a favorite unit or section of material to teach?
I really like getting into the culture. I feel like there are so many times where people just learn the language, but culture is just as important. I enjoy showing Spanish films or reading a Spanish novel in class. And because I lived in Spain, I love Spanish history (especially around the time of the Spanish civil war). Sorry that’s such a broad answer – I just like it all!
You’ve been at CAC for almost a full semester now and we’ve loved having you here! You’re such a great part of the team. What was it about CAC that made you want to work here?
When I came here to CAC for my interview I had already interviewed at three other schools that day back-to-back-to-back. And when I met with Dr. Lambert there was just something different about him. He was very genuine – and obviously that’s very important to me! I felt very confident about my decision to work here and it has been completely backed up by everything so far. I’ve been incredibly pleased being here. The students are great and the faculty is fabulous. Working here has been the easiest thing in our transition. A lot other things have been difficult, but it’s been so nice to find a place like this and to be around this family. What everyone says about the community is true.
We know you love being in the classroom, but what do you like to do for fun when you’re not at work?
Music and theatre are my favorite things. My husband and I love going to concerts – we love Phoenix and for our anniversary last year we saw them in New York. We love Robbie Williams and got to see him in Las Vegas. If it’s an artist we really like, we’ll travel and make it like an extended date since we don’t get to have those very often.
In Memphis I did a lot with the community theatre, especially in the summer when I had more time. Theatre is my other love, besides Spanish.
Thankfully, our son Nathan really likes theatre, so we do a lot of musical theatre with him. My other two boys love the outdoors, so it’s been nice being here, because Memphis is just flat and there’s nothing fun to do outside. So here we’ll go hiking on Pinnacle Mountain or just go to the park. They love the Old Mill in North Little Rock, so we go there a lot.
Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us today! We’ve got time for one more question – and it’s a silly one. If you had to eat every meal at one restaurant for the rest of your life, where would you pick?
Oh goodness! I love food – that’s my other big hobby. I cook all types of ethnic dishes and I love trying new food. I studied abroad in Israel and China as well, so I got to try a lot of different foods in those places.
And even after all of that, I’m a sucker for some chips and salsa. It would have to be a Mexican restaurant – right near my house is a Santo Coyote and they have the best salsa ever. They know to just keep bringing it to me!