Melissa Massie, beloved Spanish instructor at BC

Melissa Massie, a Spanish professor at Bellevue College, is one of only a handful of full-time language instructors at BC. She teaches all six levels of the class, and from the first greetings to the intricate conversations of her second-year students, she takes great joy in her work. Massie described her progression towards her present career as “sort of a twisted path.” While she had studied Spanish at the college level, she had not anticipated teaching full- time. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology with

the intention of becoming a family marriage therapist. During her undergraduate studies she fell in love with a Costa Rican man, and after she received her degree the two moved to Costa Rica and married. She lived there for three years, working as a counselor for middle and high school students in a bilingual school. She now considers Costa Rica her “second home.”

When she returned to the U.S., she resumed her studies in psychology and tutored Spanish at Bellevue Community College as well as Seattle Central Community College. She explained: “I loved tutoring, so I started to think about what it might take for me to teach. I walked into the [language] department 18 and a half years ago and asked what I might have to do to teach Spanish. They knew me as a tutor and they knew that I had a master’s degree and that I could speak Spanish, so they tried me out for a couple of classes and I’ve been teaching ever since.”

In 2005, Bellevue College had Massie evaluate the Study Abroad Program which sends students to Costa Rica during the summer quarter. She explained: “The school is in the central valley in a place called Alajuela, which is warm and gorgeous. You take classes outdoors under mango trees in hammocks. It’s fantastic.” This program is not indicative of standard schooling, however. Massie stated: “Schooling in the Spanish-speaking world has one advantage over ours, in that they’re a lot more rigorous than we are. But one disadvantage in that [is] oftentimes they are much more traditional and almost authoritarian … ‘The teacher is the one who has the knowledge and we pass that to our students, who are like empty vessels that need to be filled.’ We don’t think about education so much that way in the U.S. anymore. We’re sometimes not as demanding as schools abroad, but we’re definitely more student- centered and I think we do a better job at equity in terms of how we meet students where they are … rather than treating everybody the same and being the expert in the room. I never wanted to be that kind of teacher.” Her joy in teaching is reciprocated by her pupils. Alyssa Brown, her student since last fall, said, “As a first time Spanish student, I was quite fortunate to have Melissa Massie as my professor. She has a wonderful personality that always makes the atmosphere of the class refreshing and pleasant.”

Massie encourages her students towards success in her course work, but her true joy is “Just to see whatever skills you’re learning in school, you’re also going out and using, that’s amazing, because I think we should all speak at least two languages.”Melissa Massie