You might recognize this week’s spotlight from the High School faculty. Spanish teacher Andrea Novak has been with Post Oak for several years, brightening our lives and classrooms with her enthusiasm and energy.
I am from Mexico and moved to the USA in 2006. I have a daughter, who is a sophomore at the High School. All my family lives in Mexico with the exception of my sister. We go to Mexico once a year to spend time with them and to eat all the authentic food I cannot find here.
Why did you choose to work at Post Oak? (And how long have you worked here?)
I came to work at Post Oak in 2013. I knew very little about Montessori education, but as the time passed, I started to understand this philosophy and methodology and got hooked on it. Post Oak set up an environment inviting students to learn, to develop, and to discover their skills. Every single day at the High School, students impress me with their work, comments, or questions.
How did you get started in your profession? How did you know you wanted to do this? What are you most proud of?
I wanted to make a change in the world and found out that education was the key. I love working with adolescents because they are so close to becoming those world changers. My mission is to help them to be passionate about learning, thinking critically, being creative, and becoming peacemakers.
How were you introduced to Montessori?
To be a Montessori teacher at the High School level, you do not need to have Montessori certification; you need to be a specialist in your area and agree with the philosophy. I talked with Patricia Onofre, the Spanish specialist for the Middle School, and she explained to me how she teaches Spanish grammar. That was a WOW moment for me! She was making it fun and engaging by using flashcards, and making things easy and accessible for the students.
In your opinion, what’s the best part of teaching?
The best part of teaching is when I see my students speaking in Spanish, celebrating a Mexican tradition in a very authentic way, or when they can demonstrate awareness of the Hispanic culture in a very respectful and knowledgeable way.
What's your favorite part of working with children or adolescents? What makes a “good day” at school?
My favorite part is having an informal conversation in Spanish with a student, having a formal seminar in Spanish with a class, and having fun while learning.
Who or what inspires you? What has influenced you most in your work?
Being Mexican and valuing my heritage as a treasure that I want to share with my students. Sometimes I feel like the Mexican grandmas who are there to share their traditions and values generation by generation.
What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies? What do you like about Houston?
I love to eat good food. Houston has a very diverse community, and I love going to restaurants. I appreciate the art of cooking and presenting a great and beautiful dish. Some suggestions: Cafe Peru is a small and family-owned restaurant, great Peruvian food, and low cost. Latin Bites is great Peruvian food as well. The Empanada Factory makes great Argentinian empanadas; they have like 20 different flavors of empanadas. Hugo’s is a nice Mexican restaurant—the owner is from Oaxaca, one of the poorest states in Mexico; this is why they eat grasshoppers. One of the appetizers in Hugo’s is grasshoppers, which I tried there for the first time. It was exotic, different, and delicious! Afterwards, I learned on a school trip to New Orleans, that it is a movement that promotes the ingestion of insects as a way to become more sustainable. Insects are rich in proteins, easy to reproduce, and better for the ecosystem.
Anything else we should know? Know any good jokes?
My first job was in a middle school and high school as a Mexican traditional dance teacher and theater teacher. I was still in college, and it was a great fit. After a year and a half, they offered me a position teaching seventh grade Spanish. I finished college with a full-time job. It was there that I learned I very much like working with adolescents.