World Languages Dept. Chair, Spanish Teacher
University of Granada (Spain), MEd
University of Basque Country, BA
email: maitane.elorza [at] sonomaacademy.org
phone: (707) 545-1770 x3426
Originally from town of Azpeitia in the Basque region of Spain, Maitane went to a Catholic school from Pre-K to 12th grade, where she received her education both in Basque and in Spanish. In fifth grade, Maitane started studying English and fell in love with it. In the summer of her sophomore year in high school, she spent a summer living with a host family in Bath, England. Maitane says that the experience was what really shaped the rest of her life. She was fascinated with all the cultural differences she had to get accustomed to. And, although she often felt uncomfortable, Maitane made great progress and returned home with an insatiable hunger for exploring other places in the world.
After high school, she attended the University of the Basque Country and a few years later received a Masters Degree from the University of Granada. Maitane started teaching languages at the age of 22, starting off by teaching Basque to young adults in a language academy in the Basque Country. After three years, she felt like it was time for a change, and then ventured to the Amazon in Ecuador and worked as a volunteer teacher for indigenous children in the jungle. To this day, Maitane considers that as one of the best experiences in her life. That's also where she happened to meet her husband, who was also a volunteer teacher. After Ecuador, she returned to the Basque Country and taught English and Basque in San Bizente Ikastola, a high school in the Basque Country. Maitane loved that experience and still keeps in touch with some of the coworkers and students she met while working there. In 2006, Maitane and her husband decided to move to the US, first spending a year in Florida, where she worked as an ESL teacher for adults. In 2007 she applied for a job at Sonoma Academy, and the rest is history!
Maitane teaches her classes focusing both on linguistic and cross-cultural competence. She believes that one can't learn a language and be a successful speaker unless he/she knows about the culture that surrounds it, so Maitane considers learning about other cultures a very important aspect in her classes. This competence can't be achieved overnight. The understanding and grasp of the linguistic and cultural components take time and patience. That is why she loves teaching her AP class. By the time students reach the AP level, they have acquired a profound cultural understanding, which she claims makes teaching and learning even more rewarding.
Maitane’s favorite part of the day is when we all gather to eat in the Commons because the new building has made a huge impact on how we connect with each other at lunchtime. She gets to sit and eat with different colleagues every day, and have great conversations around good food. “It is nurturing,” she says, "and it really feels like a break! Our society moves at such a fast pace, people often eat in front of a computer all by themselves. Coming from a culture where sharing a long meal with your family and friends is part of your daily life, I find that really sad. I am glad that the G&C allows us to do that!” she says.
When comparing SA to other schools she’s worked at, Maitane notes the special relationship between students and teachers. Many opportunities are created to work together in academic classes, exploratory and intersession courses, advisory groups, grade-level retreats, international trips, etc. All these experiences allow teachers and students to see each other in different areas, which allows them to see the whole person, rather than just a student or a teacher in a specific subject class. “Whenever thoughts and feelings are shared in a council circle where students and teachers speak from the heart and listen from the heart, we create a space where it is okay to be vulnerable,” she says. “There is a deep sense of trust, compassion, and respect in the SA community.”
We love Maitane and are so lucky to have her!