Photo by Adam Akins

New Spanish teacher embraces Country Day dynamic

Four years ago, Country Day’s  Spanish teacher Alvaro Garcia uprooted his life in Spain, in part, for love.

In 2018, Garcia traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, to better his English and pursue a Ph.D. There, he met Dr.  Rima Rahal, an anesthesiologist at a hospital near the laboratory where he worked.

They fell in love.

Ultimately, Garcia decided to give up everything, leaving his family and job in his hometown of Grenada, Spain. 

“Quitting things is not easy, and being far from family is not easy,” he said.

A year later, in 2019, he married Rahal, and in 2020, he relocated to Sacramento to pursue his master’s degree in Spanish at California State University, Sacramento. 

He started teaching at Country Day during the 2021-2022 school year.  He teaches middle and high school Spanish. Garcia’s favorite part about teaching Spanish is when students use vocabulary words in Spanish. 

“I really like when, at the end of the year, I see a student using Spanish words. That, I think is my goal,” Garcia said.

 He said that if people never use the words in Spanish, they will forget them.

A student in Garcia’s class, sophomore Avery LaPlaca, said:  “He is very good at teaching because he had to learn English himself so he knows the learning process.”

He is very willing to help and makes sure you are taking the right steps to get better, LaPlaca said.

Garcia enjoys teaching at Country Day.

“I have freedom. I have really nice coworkers. In general, all the Spanish teachers are really good, and really good people also,” Garcia said.

“I would say people and kids are really polite in general. There is a really nice vibe,” he said.

He is also comfortable because he knows that other Spanish teachers will assist him if he requires it.

Prior to becoming a Spanish teacher, while he was in Spain, Garcia was immersed in neurocognitive disorders and speech therapy.  He received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in speech therapy from the University of Granada. He also completed three years of Ph.D. research in autism and childhood development.

“I used to teach physiology. It is totally different. Physiology is how our body reacts to some things or how cells interact between cells, neurons, and muscles,” he said. 

For three years, he taught at the University in Granada.

Teaching in Spain was quite different from teaching high school and middle school. He does feel that teaching at the University was comparable to teaching in the high school at Sacramento Country Day. 

In high school, “you guys are more serious. You want to learn. In middle school, they need more play. They need more dynamic classes,” he said.

When Garcia is not at school, he usually hangs out with his wife and studies for his master’s degree. 

“I keep the house in good shape. Don’t have a messy house. It’s another thing that I usually do during the week because my wife is working a long shift every day,” Garcia said. “I also like cooking as a hobby, too. If I have time and I feel in the mood, I will cook something that I want or bake.” 

Garcia also enjoys spending time outdoors, often on a hike or kayaking.

“Nature in general, I like it,”  Garcia said.

Garcia views himself as a laid-back individual. He likes hanging out with Rahal and his bernedoodle, Oso, which means “bear” in Spanish. 

They all enjoy TV shows and films on the couch. On weekends, they watch enhanced sci-fi thrillers. 

But, after a long day at work, he, Rahal and Oso relax by watching House Hunters International or anime together, which is always a good time. 

— By Eesha Dhawan

Originally published in the Sept. 28 edition of The Octagon.

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