Q & A: New Spanish teacher worked at international wineries before settling in Sacramento
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Lindsay Mitchell Vayner, middle and high school Spanish teacher, has recently moved to Sacramento from Napa.
Q: What brought you to SCDS?
A: I taught at different schools and (later) went to a different field, but I missed the kids, so I saw an opening and here I am!
Q: Where have you taught?
A: I’ve taught in Napa, Boston, and St. Louis, Missouri. And I’ve taught at the United Arab Emirates.
Q: Where have you taught recently?
A: Most recently I taught at the Blue Oak School in Napa, and before that, I taught at the Fay School just outside of Boston.
Q: What field were you in when you weren’t teaching?
A: Since my move to Napa, I’ve become interested in the wine industry. So I worked in tasting rooms (in Napa). Later I actually traveled to New Zealand and made wine in a wine cellar. And later I came back to California and worked at another wine cellar.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I grew up in St. Louis. But since college I’ve traveled to many places.
Q: Where else have you traveled?
A: I stayed in the United Arab Emirates for a while. I’ve been to Malaysia, Albania, New Zealand and Indonesia.
Q: Do you have a Spanish-speaking background?
A: By blood, no. I (learned) Spanish at school. I got a scholarship for special international studies and language when I was a kid.
Q: What scholarship did you receive?
A: When I was 7, there was a new magnet school in St. Louis for international studies. My sister and I won lottery tickets to attend the school and earned a scholarship. So that’s where I “officially” started learning Spanish.
Q: How many years did you study Spanish?
A: I started learning when I was 7, but I wasn’t serious about it until I was 13 or so. I would say around 20 years.
Q: Where did you go to college?
A: I did my undergrad at the University of St. Louis, Missouri. And I also did part of my undergrad at the University of Puerto Rico. I (went to) grad school at the University of California, Davis.
Q: What was your major in college?
A: I earned my bachelor’s (degree) in Spanish with a minor in modern Greek. And I have my master’s in Spanish literature.
Q: How was your move to Sacramento?
A: It was fairly easy; my husband and I traveled a lot, so we didn’t have many things to move. We moved from Napa (which is) only about an hour away, the hardest part was the crazy heat.
Q: Do you miss anyone in Napa?
A: I taught (in) Napa, (and) I had many friends in Napa. It’s great that they’re so close, but it doesn’t make it any easier to see them than if they were on the other side of the world.
Q: How do you feel about teaching here so far?
A: It’s still early days, but in general I like the vibe here. I like how the teachers can be creative with our (curricula) and the kinds of activities we can do. I love my co-workers; they’re all awesome and very supportive. And so far the kids have been great. I really look forward to getting to know them, especially the middle school kids.
Q: How do you feel about your experience in SCDS and Sacramento in general?
A: I like it. (SCDS) is probably the most diverse school that I’ve taught at in quite a while, and I love Sacramento despite it being very hot here. I love that there is always something fun (going on), some festival or some activity in the park. And I love international supermarkets.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I really love arts and crafts, so I like to sew. I like to take clothes or bits of fabric like an old tablecloth and make cool things out of it. I find that relaxing, and it helps me get into my flow. I also love to cook. My husband and I cook a lot, and we always make everything from scratch.
Q: What cool things have you made?
A: I don’t have a lot of time to sew. I made a skirt from a tablecloth a teacher gave me. I made some produce bags to take to the store. I made an apron for my husband. And I made decorative pillows.
Q: What are your favorite dishes to cook?
A: I make a lot of Mediterranean food. I make lasagna sometimes. I love to make ravioli. I make Middle Eastern food and Greek food; we eat a lot of hummus in my house. And I also bake bread.
Q: Why do you prefer making food from scratch?
A: Two reasons: one is for nutrition, so I know what exactly is in my food; and two, I find cooking very relaxing. There are a lot of times and a lot of tasks that we have, especially as teachers, where we don’t see the immediate outcome of our work. But (when it comes to food) you make it and you say “Ha, I made this!” and you get to eat it and enjoy it.
Q: What genre of movies do you like?
A: I really like intelligent, witty comedies, like British comedies. I like a good superhero movie every now and then, like “Wonder Woman.”
Q: What kind of music do you like?
A: I love lots of different kinds of music. I really enjoy folk music – one of my favorite artists is Brandy Carlisle. I like older stuff like Kansas. And I really, really love blues because in St. Louis it’s part of the culture. I also like zydeco music.
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: I don’t have any official pets yet. I want a dog very badly. My only pets right now are the hummingbirds on my patio.
Q: What is your style of teaching Spanish?
A: I love theater and I love art, so in my classes I try to incorporate things like that. For me, a language like Spanish or French is not something (where) you sit with a book and you learn and do exercises and you’re done. For me It’s wonderful to make jokes in that language and learn music and art, so I try to incorporate that a lot in my class.
—By Ming Zhu