Alissa Coenen

Spanish Teacher
Humboldt State University, BA
email: alissa.coenen [at] sonomaacademy.org
phone: (707) 545-1770 x3427

Alissa was the first and only person in her family to go to college, going on to teach students from around the world. “I was always pretty sure I wanted to be an educator, and, like many educators, I was inspired by a couple of great teachers in high school,” she reflects. Alissa says she always had a passion for learning about other cultures and for communicating with people from different places.

After living and studying in Oaxaca, Mexico, Alissa volunteered with bilingual students in California and realized she wanted to earn a degree in Spanish, in addition to her original choice, English (Literature). Alissa’s love for learning and teaching across cultures grew while she lived in Spain after college, where she taught English to people from Europe and North Africa.

Back in the US, Alissa was interested in teaching at public schools. Alissa says, “I was a very big advocate for public education and years ago never thought I would be at a school like Sonoma Academy.” Alissa heard about us through her friend, Ellie Dwight, Assistant Head of School, who encouraged her to apply for a teaching position, saying Alissa would be a great fit at the school. But Alissa disagreed at first, saying, “I had a preconceived idea of what Sonoma Academy was like—but it turned out I was wrong.”

After Alissa was invited to Sonoma Academy events and met and interacted with our students, she decided to come on as a foreign language teacher. Alissa says the transition from public to private school is like night and day, but it immediately felt like a natural fit.

“When I got here I felt I was in my element. It was obvious that this was a place where people love what they do, where teachers enjoy teaching and students enjoy learning. I felt at home.The engagement at SA is very high for adults and students alike. They care, they participate, they want to try new things and make the most of their experience.”

Each summer Alissa enjoys the time to contemplate the past school year and look ahead at the one to come. “I believe this reflective time is extremely important for a teacher.” Down the line, Alissa would love to teach Spanish electives where students have the chance to explore culture more deeply, interact with the Spanish-speaking community, and have the chance to use the language in a greater variety of situations. “Our goal in the language department is to create, provide, and encourage the chance for students to use the language learned in the classroom outside in the real world.”
“When I got here I felt I was in my element. It was obvious that this was a place where people love what they do, where teachers enjoy teaching and students enjoy learning. I felt at home.” 

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The only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, Sonoma Academy students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.