Teachers from foreign countries bring valuable experiences to the classroom



Many teachers at the high school were born outside of the United States and view the Brookline school system with an alternate perspective.

It is often overlooked how some staff members’ cultural backgrounds are reflected in what they bring to the classroom. Here are three educators at the high school who are originally from foreign countries and bring their experiences to students to form a more connected and well-informed community.

Pedro Mendez

Spanish teacher Pedro Mendez was a computer science teacher in Mexico prior to moving to the United States in 2003.

Mendez values tying his heritage into lessons, ensuring that his students are exposed to different cultures.

“One thing I bring to my classes is music from my country when we start class,” Mendez said. “In Spanish 5 Honors, I sometimes cook traditional Mexican food in front of the kids for us to share.”

However, Mendez strives to do more than share music and food. He feels a responsibility to break the stereotypes regarding his ethnicity.

“The last years under Trump have demonized Mexicans and Latinos in general, portraying them as people taking jobs, being lazy and draining social security,” Mendez said. “I think I have a social responsibility to show my classes that these beliefs are incorrect and offensive.”

One of his favorite units he teaches is “Our Identity through Food,” a unit that evokes connections for students among their families and each other.

“It is amazing when the students start thinking about the things that they eat, which helps them reflect on their culture, identity and family,” Mendez said. “I want them to take away how we are not so different, and that even though we speak different languages, we also share so much in common.”

Devina Sakaria

Freshman English teacher Devina Sakaria was born in the United Kingdom and moved to the United States when she was in fourth grade.

For Sakaria, her British accent made her move difficult. An incident she remembers vividly was when she was called to read out-loud during her first day of school in America.

“I loved books and loved reading, and I always answered questions during class,” Sakaria said. “I started reading with my very thick British accent, and all of the students in the class started laughing at me. I quietly faltered and eventually stopped reading.”

With being both biracial and an immigrant, Sakaria struggled with her identity growing up. Because of this, Sakaria holds a goal of providing a welcoming community for all of her students.

“I strive to create a safe classroom that celebrates differences,” Sakaria said. “I think going through these experiences has helped me understand how unique and diverse each of my students are, as they all consist of so many factors that shape their identity.”

Sakaria enjoys teaching freshman English because of her passion for embracing one’s identity.

“The ninth grade curriculum focuses a lot on sharing, learning and connecting with identities, specifically through characters in books that deal with issues regarding it,” Sakaria said. “I would never want any of my students to feel the way I felt that day when people were laughing at me because of a part of my identity.”

Marta Fuertes

Becoming a Spanish teacher was a spontaneous decision, according to Marta Fuertes who teaches both Advanced Placement and Honors Spanish 5.

“I like to say that teaching Spanish chose me rather than me choosing the profession to teach Spanish,” Fuertes said. “But I’m very happy, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

When she first started teaching in the United States, Fuertes noticed the immense difference in education systems between Spain and America.

“The system in Spain was much less reflective and gave less power to critical thinking than education here,” Fuertes said. “I believe it is extremely important to nurture creativity and original ideas, something we encourage here on a daily basis.”

Despite being born and raised in Spain, Fuertes aims to limit the focus on Spanish culture and instead works to magnify other Hispanic cultures.

“I think the Hispanic world is so wide and Spain has been taught so much that it has left other cultures behind,” Fuertes said. “There are so many different countries in the Hispanic world that Spain doesn’t need to be centered.”

However, one thing Fuertes attempts to teach every year is an occasion valued in her country: The Day of the Book, a celebration where books are exchanged to loved ones.

“(The Day of the Book) is a happy day. There are good vibes on the streets, bookstores and schools,” Fuertes said. “Sometimes, we do a book exchange in class or even among colleagues in my department. It nurtures culture, literature and showing love to the people we care for.”