An interview with Friends Spanish Teacher, Maria Gamboa, by Lou Bendrick
Tell us a little about yourself: What did you do previously and what brought you to teach Spanish at Friends School?
My family is from Mexico. I came to the USA to do my Ph.D. in Chemistry. When I was doing a post-doctorate at the University of Illinois I met my Polish husband, Krzysztof, and we decided to stay here in the USA. When we got our daughter, Monika, I decided that I wanted to take care of her at home. With the passing of the years, I changed careers and decided to teach Spanish, a career that I enjoy profusely.
For those who don’t know about Day of the Dead, will you explain what it is and why it is celebrated?
The Day of the Dead is a celebration to honor our ancestors. Its origins reside in the Mayan culture. However, with the coming of the Spaniards, the traditions from both sides got mixed and developed the Day of the Dead the way we celebrate it nowadays. So, in Mexico people go to the cemetery to clean the tombs of their beloved people who are not with them anymore and sometimes they stay in the tomb to talk, eat, drink, and sometimes even sing, talking about the person(s) and remembering the good times. In the evening, people go to a special Mass offered for the deceased. At home, people set “altares,” which are tables nicely ornamented to call and honor the spirits of their ancestors.
Where did you grow up and what were your family’s Day of the Dead traditions?
I grew up in several parts of Mexico. We did not visit the tombs of my relatives because they were in other States. Some years we set “altares” to remember our grandparents and we used to go to Mass to pray for their souls.
What are your traditions now?
I passed the traditions to my daughter, although we do not celebrate it formally at home. However, I enjoy talking about it at school and sharing the traditions of my country with my students.
What is your favorite part of this holiday?
All of it! When I teach it to my students, I enjoy comparing and contrasting it to Halloween. Also, I like the idea of colorful skulls, so as to say that we are not “afraid” of the dead but consider it as part of life.
Will you be doing anything special in your Spanish classes to celebrate?
Yes! This is a collaborative project between Art and Spanish classes. From 3rd to 8th grades, I explain the differences between Halloween and the Day of the Dead. We talk about the altars and what elements should be included in them. The students plan to make an altar (this year 3rd and 5th) and the whole school (K-5) contribute to make the elements in Art class. In 6th to 8th grades, students make colorful skeletons from paper rolls. Also, 4th and 6th grades go to the Museum in Longmont where there is a special exhibition about the Day of the Dead (although this year it got cancelled because of the weather.)Read More
by Honor Taft, Friends School Head of School
At this end of the month , I’ll be taking a trip abroad. Normally, a head of school wouldn’t take time away during the busy month of January. This trip, however, is deeply meaningful to me, so I’d like to share why I’m going.
On Saturday, January 26th I will set off to Leiden, Netherlands in honor my great-grandfather, Peter Debye who among many accomplishments, won a Nobel Prize in 1936. He is perhaps most famous for his discovery of the “dipole moment” (Dipole moments occur when a molecule creates temporary charges and builds bonds between atoms) and development of equations to calculate the size of the dipole moment (called a Debye). His discovery contributed immeasurable to our understanding of molecules which is the foundation for so much of what we understand and can accomplish in science today.
Along with some members of my family, including my father, step-mother and my father’s cousins, I will attend an event at the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave. This event will honor and celebrate the handing over of heritage objects, including letters, photos, school diplomas among others items, which will be added to their national science collection. This museum already holds heritage collections of many Dutch Nobel Prize winners, and they are excited add these to their collections.
During this event, a number of people will speak about the importance of my great-grandfather as a Nobel Prize winner. Wiel Rousseau, a Dutch scientist who learned from my great-grandfather and with whom I have kept up a connection, will talk about his discovery of the heritage objects and how he has cared for them through the years. My father will also speak about his life growing up with Peter Debye’s in Ithaca, New York, where Peter served as Professor of Chemistry, Principle of the Chemistry Department and eventually Professor Emeritus at Cornell University (our family donated his Nobel Prize, and some other medals to the University in 2004). These medals had an interesting life of their own, a story I would love to share one day.
Of particular importance for me in the story of Peter’s life is that he was born into a poor family in Maastricht, Netherlands. As such, he was entitled to an education only through grade 5. During his schooling, however, a teacher took note of his potential and lobbied to the state requesting that his education be funded (this letter is among the heritage items that will be presented to the museum). Achieving this funding laid the groundwork for Peter Debye’s rise through academia and ultimately for his contributions to science, which arguable impact how we live today. This story reminds me of what I believe and why I do the work that I do – a teacher, through their belief in a child, can change the course of that child’s life, and even change the world.
I look forward to sharing photos and moments from this trip as I travel, and when I return. You can follow me on twitter @HonorTaft for ongoing updates from my adventure.
Congratulations to Friends AfterCare teacher Rashel Gandhi-Besbes who has been named the outstanding graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder for fall 2018. Rashel’s honor thesis is about conservation efforts in Tanzania. She is graduating summa cum laude in anthropology from the University of Colorado Boulder. Read more about Rashel’s work and award here.Read More