Lower School News 

Faculty in Focus: Debby Macek, Middle School Humanities Teacher and Subject Area Leader
Posted 03/26/2018 03:15PM



1. You studied International Relations and History at Stanford. What inspired you to go on to get a master’s degree in education?
Two summers after graduating from college, I worked leading high school kids on backpacking trips in the wilderness. I was hiking down Olympic Beach wondering what to do at summer’s end since I had not found a “dream job” yet. A fellow leader said to me, "It doesn't matter what your major was - do what you want. College teaches you how to think." At that moment I realized that all the work I had been doing with kids during the past two years was leading me in a clear direction, and I should follow it. I applied for my master's program in education a month later.


2. You have two children at Graded. If you could choose one historical figure to be their teacher for a semester, who would you choose?
A few people come to mind for very different reasons. I would love for my kids to take a course from each of them for one semester! First, Mahatma Gandhi to learn about struggle, what it means to be human together, and peaceful protest. Second, Mother Teresa to learn about self-sacrifice, believing in something bigger than yourself, and true empathy and kindness. Finally, Benjamin Franklin to learn to be unconventional, not to worry about what others think of you, and how to love learning and experimenting just for the sake of learning and seeing what will happen.

I will limit myself to these three, but I don't want to!

3. What was the most challenging part of moving from rural Colorado, where you lived and worked for several years, to São Paulo?
Immediately, the biggest challenge was culture shock. I struggled with the language and learning how to do things. Over time, the challenge has been adjusting to the noise and bustle of the city. Our house in Marble, Colorado, was surrounded by national forest and most of the time, all we heard through our windows was the breeze or a nearby stream. When I get a noseful of pollution on my walk home, I can't help but miss the amazing smell of a Colorado pine forest. Although I miss certain things, of course, I am so very grateful for this experience at Graded and in Brazil. Brazilians are the warmest, most genuine people, and I have learned and grown so much as a teacher here at Graded!

4.  Who are your favorite writers?
Hard question! Classics: Austen, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. Kids’ authors: Dahl and of course Rowling. Tolkien fits both of those categories for me, and The Lord of the Rings is my absolute favorite adventure story. I love to read young adult fiction and talk about books with my two children and my students.

5.  What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I cannot take full credit for my two amazing children - in fact, I am sure the credit due me is a very small percentage - but I'm so proud of the kind, strong, and thoughtful young people that Maia and Mason are. Two other things I am very proud of are establishing a preschool program in our hometown and earning my black belt in taekwondo. The hours and hours of work and learning and personal growth that went into each of these endeavors also make me proud.

6.  What elements of taekwondo help you in your professional life at Graded?
Taekwondo has it all: discipline, focus on goals, commitment through adversity, and teamwork. Training for my black belt test was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It was also a unique experience because I got to share it with my son, Mason, who received his black belt at age ten alongside me. Through this process, I learned that you are never too old to learn something new, and that perseverance and discipline are the most powerful tools for success in the universe. It changed my focus as a teacher - how you learn and the attitude you bring is definitely more critical than the "what."

7.  You teach middle school. If you could go back in time and do your own middle school years again, what would you do differently?
I would ask more questions. I would worry less about what I thought others were thinking about me. I would also explore some passions before high school while I had more time, like learning to play the guitar. And I would listen more to people who thought differently or who had had different experiences. 

8.  Who are your heroes in real life?
My heroes are those with the courage to step out of their daily lives and stand up for what is right, no matter the cost. The unknown protester who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989 is a global and epic heroic example. Other historic examples include Rosa Parks, Jane Addams, and the Suffragettes. Modern examples include the students in Florida pushing for gun control laws. There are so many stories of those who fight for their rights and dignity and even those who fight for the rights and dignity of others. 

 


9.  If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would be more courageous on a daily basis. I would stop more often to appreciate the moment. I would smile more and frown less. I would make sure I have a real connecting moment with another human every day. I would improve my memory. I have a lot of things I am always thinking about changing and working on so I can't pick one! You can pick one of these if you want one.

10.  What is your favorite thing about Graded?
My colleagues! I have learned so much from my teammates, who have challenged me, helped me, and reminded me of the best things in life and teaching. They have helped me become a better teacher and taught me to always strive to be a better person. My students have also inspired, challenged, and surprised me, and very importantly, laughed with me, and I am sure that I have learned as much from them as they have learned from me. 


Av. José Galante, 425
São Paulo, SP - Brazil - 05642-000
T: 55-11-3747-4800
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