Breaking the Cycle: A teacher’s story


Posted Tue, Mar 26, 2013

Adelaida Carmona in her classroom.

LEAN ON ME: Adelaida Carmona in her classroom. During the whole hour and 15 minutes of class, the smile never leaves her face. [Photo by S.L. Alderton]

DENVER — As soon as Adelaida Carmona enters her conversational Spanish class at Metropolitan State University of Denver, the atmosphere of the room changes.

“Buenoas tardes, chicos! Què tal?” Carmona says in a bright voice that cuts through the low-level chatter of her students. Carmona hurries to the blackboard, where her dress is quickly frosted with white chalk dust as she delivers her lesson in a rapid blend of English and Spanish. During the whole hour and 15 minutes of class, the smile never leaves her face.

The reason for Carmona’s smile in class is simple: she loves her job.

“Teaching, for me, is therapy,” Carmona says with a smile. “Because you come and you forget about the world. It’s magical. You’re in front of your students, and you’re guiding them, you know? That’s magical.”

To Carmona, “forgetting about the world” while in class is an important part of teaching.

“All the stuff that you bring into class that’s personal is against you,” Carmona says. “You have to try to leave all that at home. You have a fight with your husband? You have to leave that at home. You had a bad morning? Leave it at home. Because if not, you’re going to make everybody miserable around you.”

Though it would be hard to tell by the way she interacts with her class, Carmona has had to leave a lot behind her to become the person she is today. Carmona was raised in Madrid during a time when Spain was still very traditional, and it was rare for a woman to work outside the home. Carmona’s mother was an exception, as she taught at a school alongside her husband. Carmona says she had a great father who pushed her to become educated. He told her she could be anything she wanted to be, even as a girl in traditional Spain. He himself had two Ph.D.s. And yet he was also a terrible husband. Carmona says he beat her mother, and her parents separated five times in the years before divorce was legal in Spain.

“I grew up watching very hard stuff,” Carmona says. “So that made me very strong, that made me very independent…my mom had a very hard life with my dad, and I knew I would never want to be dependent on a man.”

In 1988 Carmona came to the United States as an exchange student, as she says, “because I failed English!” But the trip not only helped her learn English, it also helped her learn what a family could be like.

Rather than go back to Spain, Carmona decided to finish her college career in the United States, including graduate school in Hawaii. Carmona received a master’s degree in peninsular and Hispanic literature, but ended up teaching Spanish at the University of Colorado-Denver because she couldn’t teach college literature without a doctorate (a change of subject she said she didn’t mind at all). When Metropolitan State University started hiring for a teaching job that paid more money, she moved up two floors in the same building and became an MSU Denver teacher.

Now, it’s clear Carmona hasn’t allowed the hard things in her past to damage her. Another MSU Denver professor, Ana-Maria Medina, described Carmona as “happy, dynamic and…devoted to her students.”

Medina also described at least one instance when Carmona’s positive influence extended to life outside the classroom.

“I know that she’s a really good person,” Medina says. “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, she did a pool for funds, and they gave me a Whole Foods card. She put things together to make me feel loved.”

Carmona says her experiences have made her strong, rather than pushing her in the opposite direction.

“You have to be able to overcome [life struggles], and look to see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and become your own person,” she says. “You can’t bring that into your life or relationships…so I survived that, I broke the cycle. Usually you repeat the cycle, but I broke the cycle because I worked hard at it.”

Carmona has a relationship now that stands in stark contrast to that of her parents as she celebrated her 15th wedding anniversary on March 15.

Just for Fun: Spain vs. the U.S. 

Map of Spain - from

Map of Spain – from


Although her U.S. host family may have made the biggest difference in her life, Carmona mentioned several other things about American culture that came as a bit of a shock when she first moved here. Here are some of the most notable cultural differences Carmona noticed between the two countries:

  • Food – “My host family was eating potatoes with the skin, and I thought they were making a mistake.” In Spain, vegetables are usually cooked more thoroughly than they are here. Bread, wine and cheese are traditional necessities at every meal, while soda and hamburgers are more rare. Carmona says that when she was growing up, most meals would take several hours both to prepare and to eat–though she did say that nowadays Spain is becoming more like the U.S. in this area.
  • Staying Out Late – “In Spain you have people walking [the streets] up until 5 in the morning.” Carmona says she was surprised at first to see Americans going home by 5 p.m. every day. In Spain, it’s common to eat dinner at 10 p.m. or later, and to stay outside all night long. This is partly because there, as in much of Europe and Latin America, people traditionally take a siesta in the middle of the day.
  • Education – “Europe is the center of humanity, so [Greek] is a requirement there.” The Spanish education system is different from the American one, though it’s becoming more like it; for example, classical languages and English are required, and there’s more emphasis on memorization than hands-on practice.

About S.L. Alderton

S.L. Alderton is an MSU Denver student majoring in magazine journalism.

View all posts by S.L. Alderton

7 Responses to “Breaking the Cycle: A teacher’s story”

  1. Davy Says:

    Great story. I like the way that you divide your go box from the story. I like how you also describe her after she talks.


  2. Emily Pennetti Says:

    Loved the beginning! Great description. The side bar was great too. Interesting information


  3. S.L. Alderton Says:

    “her parents separated five times” – “separated” was missing. 🙂


  4. Jen Sasser Says:

    An all-encompassing profile. I liked it a lot, you seemed to get a really in-depth story of this inspiring teacher!


  5. Aaron Lambert Says:

    Great profile! I like how you were able to go deeper into her past and reveal how it shaped her passion for teaching.


  6. Ashley Says:

    I really enjoyed this article. When you think about your professors at school you don’t often think about their back story. She has had quite the life.


  7. Samantha Salyer Says:

    I think this is an exceptionally well-written article, and you have captured her personality well, she is extremely infectious and does a wonderful job of keeping us all engaged.



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