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A Tale of Two Cultures: Sara Molina’s Journey from Vermont to Mexico

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Ask this VLACS Spanish teacher what she loves, and the answer is clear. Sara Molina, VLACS profesora extraordinaire loves adventure, family, and teaching. We Zoomed from her home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where she lives for half the year with her husband and daughter.

Sara understands what it means to live in and experience two different places and cultures.  Sara’s dad is Spanish, so she grew up speaking only Spanish with him, but her parents raised her in Vermont, her mother’s home state.

“As someone who grew up with two cultures but living primarily in one, I felt half Spanish, but not totally half Spanish,” she says. “I want my daughter to have strong roots in her primary cultures and feel that she belongs to both.”

Sara and her husband are teaching their daughter to be bilingual. “I speak to her only in English, and my husband speaks to her only in Spanish.”

She says she hopes that her daughter embraces being bilingual as she did as a child and learns how to love exploring the world.

With some summers in Spain, Sara developed a taste for travel at a young age but didn’t travel much outside of that until her 20s, after college.

“I love learning about different places and finding nooks and crannies in the world,” she says. Outside of Europe, Sara’s travels took her to Mexico, where she currently lives and Ecuador, where she stayed longer than she planned.

In Ecuador, Sara landed one of the coolest jobs on the planet. “After college, I found an English teaching job in the Galapagos — it was pretty cool,” she says. “It was supposed to be a five-month commitment. Towards the end of my time there, I got asked to stay on for another year as a coordinator of study abroad programs as a fill-in for someone going on maternity leave. I stayed on the Galapagos for another three years, teaching and coordinating that program. It was amazing.”

Teaching fits in perfectly with Sara’s love of people, places, and exploration. “I’ve been teaching for over 15 years,” she says. “I’ve taught at a mix of brick and mortar schools, online schools, abroad, and in the States. A variety of subjects, too,” she adds, “including Spanish, of course.”

When she saw the opportunity to teach at VLACS, she jumped. “It’s a great fit for a lot of reasons,” she says. “There’s the flexibility in terms of scheduling, and then there’s the ability to work from anywhere, which is important to me.”

It’s more than VLACS’s versatility, though — it’s the relationships with her students that make VLACS a great place to work for Sara. She loves nurturing relationships over time, which she can do as a VLACS instructor.

“That one-on-one relationship is pretty valuable and does a lot for the kids and for me. I like working with kids for a long time and getting to know them.”

She recalls a fun DBA she had with a long-time Spanish student. “On one DBA, there was an art question about Salvatore Dali, and the subject of his mustache came up. We laughed. We talked about art in the Spanish-speaking world–and silly mustaches,” she says.

Sara’s life in Mexico often enriches her teaching, too. “If you’ve ever been to Mexico, you know that the idea of quiet time at night is just different, which is beautiful in a lot of ways but not necessarily how I like to live my life,” she says.

“I was giving an evening DBA around a holiday, and there was a Mariachi band practicing in the street. At first, I was trying to control it, like shutting the windows and moving to a quieter place in my house. And then finally I was l like, ‘there it is’ and I let the Mariachi music in.

Her student loved it. “It was a good affirmation,” she says. “The band passed the house,  and my student was so excited. He couldn’t wait to talk about it.”

These days, when Sara’s not working or with her family, she’s planning her next adventure. “I still love to travel,” she says, “even if it’s a day trip. A different beach. A different place. Somewhere we haven’t been. I just love the planning, the research, making the itineraries, scheduling train rides, and all that.”