Spaniard cares for students

IUS Horizon

Montserrat Arjona-Sis
Montserrat Arjona-Sisto, Spanish lecturer, reviews with her S250 class prior to their last test before their final.

Montserrat Arjona-Sisto, Spanish lecturer, lives in Louisville with her husband and has been helping students at IU Southeast learn Spanish for the past nine years.

But how did a woman from Jerez, Spain, end up teaching at IU Southeast?

The simple answer is a man, but that’s only what got the ball rolling in this direction.

Arjona-Sisto lived in Burgos and Huesca, Spain, before settling in Jerez when she was about 7 years old.

She started learning English in school at a very young age and continued all the way through high school.

Arjona-Sisto met her husband, Scott Thompson, who is from Louisville, during the last month of his work tour in Spain.  She said that month didn’t give them a lot of time to get to know each other.

“We only went on a couple of dates,” Arjona-Sisto said.

Arjona-Sisto said she was planning on going to Dublin to study, but changed her plans because she wanted to be with him.

“I convinced my parents to send me to California instead,” she said.

She spent the entire summer of 1989 in Ventura, Calif., just north of Los Angeles, getting to know Thompson before going back to Spain.

The long-distance courtship lasted two years until the couple was finally married in Jerez.

“His family and friends all came, grandparents, aunts, uncles, everyone,” Arjona-Sisto said.

After the wedding, the couple moved back to the U.S., settling in Pensacola, Fla.

While in Pensacola, Arjona-Sisto came in contact with the local Spanish ambassador, who introduced her to some of the wives of the Spanish Navy pilots who were training in the American flight simulators.

One of the women was planning on taking the entrance exam at the local university, the University of West Florida, and asked Arjona-Sisto to accompany her.

The woman told her she should take the test also, just to avoid being bored while she waited.

Arjona-Sisto agreed and said she couldn’t believe the result.

“I went in and took the test,” she said.  “The next thing I know, she failed the test, and I was sitting with a counselor signing up for courses.”

Arjona-Sisto studied language and linguistics at the University of West Florida for a year before moving to Boca Raton, Fla.

She enrolled at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and continued her studies in language and linguistics.

At this point, Arjona-Sisto said she had no specific goals in mind, at least career-wise.

“I just wanted to learn,” she said.  “I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d be teaching at a university.”

After getting her bachelor’s degree, Arjona-Sisto entered graduate school at Florida Atlantic University.

She said she realized her talent and passion for teaching while working as a graduate teaching assistant, which meant the university paid her to teach classes and also paid for her school.  Though categorized as an assistant, Arjona-Sisto taught her classes alone.

“My professors wanted me to teach, and after I taught my first semester as a GTA I knew that was it,” she said.

Arjona-Sisto said the faculty in her department also admired the effect she had on her students.

“Many of my students would become Spanish majors,” she said.

Amber Napier, psychology junior, said Arjona-Sisto treats her students like they are her children.

“She cares so much that you want to do well because you feel like you will let her down if you don’t,” Napier said.


Staff Writer