Helena Sadlak, our new part-time Spanish teacher at Thacher, grew up in Torun, Poland. She stayed in Poland for university and studied French Romance Philology before getting her master’s degree in the town of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. From there, her passion for traveling was born. Since then, she has traveled all around the world, living in Spain, France, Scotland, Mexico and Colorado before recently moving to California.
Being able to travel has really affected who Ms. Sadlak is as a person, as well as the perspective that she is now able to view the world with.
“Traveling is my passion. I love meeting new people, getting to know new cultures, different lives and different stories. When you travel, your experience becomes a big part of yourself. You can lose money, you can lose your house, you can lose the material stuff, but inside, it’s yours forever.”
Ms. Sadlak began teaching while living in Mexico six years ago. Her husband suggested that she take an intensive one-month training program to learn how to teach Spanish as a foreign language. At first, she was unsure, considering that she was the only non-native speaker in the program as well as the fact that her mom had also been a teacher and had always told her daughter not to become one.
“But ta da! Look at me now! Because you know, it was just a lucky moment.”
Ms. Sadlak is also of the opinion that having learned Spanish as a foreign language herself, she is better able to teach it as one.
“I speak Polish. It’s my first language and always will be, but it’s very difficult for me to teach Polish. It’s very difficult for me to explain the grammar because it’s something that I just learned naturally. But I studied a lot of French and Spanish so I know a lot of grammar and rules. And culture also.”
Before Thacher, Ms. Sadlak had never taught at a high school before; she had only worked at schools that were specifically for teaching languages.
“Everyone was different ages, in very small groups and one-on-one classes. This is new for me, so that’s why it’s a bit challenging. I think I’m doing very well so far and it’s fun and I like it. I mean look at this place; it’s just paradise! I love the school. I really love the atmosphere and the kids are great! I can’t complain about anything. I don’t want to be like, ‘Oh you know, life is beautiful!’ because sometimes there are some problems, but so far? Great. Great team, great teachers.”
The rest of her family, Ms. Sadlak describes as being “very normal.”
“I have a twin brother, his name is Lucas. He’s the opposite of me… He’s very quiet and patient. I also had an older brother Mateo but he passed away a couple years ago. He was an artist and had a great personality.”
Ms. Sadlak absolutely loved growing up as a twin.
“You don’t feel alone. Because we never fought, never ever with my twin brother. We were growing up together, always playing together. And my mother, she told me that we would have our own language, that she couldn’t understand at all. Because you know we would just talk between us, totally happy!”
During the time that Ms. Sadlak was growing up, Poland was under a communist rule. When asked if she thought that it had made a large impact on her life, she readily agreed.
“It just made me appreciate life a lot more. We wouldn’t have colorful toys. We wouldn’t have options for lunch, you knew there was one lunch and we were hungry and so we ate lunch… There was a TV, but on TV there was nothing interesting. It was only Russian programs… all about the regime. We would play outdoors a lot instead… But no chocolate. I had my first banana when I was about 13 years old. Can you imagine? I had just heard about bananas, but my mom brought one home from France. We were like ‘Ohhh wow!’… I don’t have any bad memories though. It was hard for my parents to maintain feeding the whole family, but they did it very well. From my perspective it was just fine, as a kid with the unknowing perspective of a child.”
In terms of goals for the future, Ms. Sadlak said that she really does not have any.
“I like to live in the present, and my plan is just to be happy, to have a job that I like, some stability and maybe a bit more routine in my life finally. I am a very happy person and I actually have everything that I need to be happy.”