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Meet the Teach: Elizabeth Ortiz
Elizabeth McDonnell

Elizabeth Ortiz teaches Spanish and serves as the Grade 8 advisor. She grew up near Philadelphia, PA and in 2004 graduated from The Agnes Irwin School, a small, all girls, independent school. Ms. Ortiz holds a BA in Spanish, with a concentration in education, from Davidson College (North Carolina) and a NC Teaching License for Spanish K-12 instruction. After moving back to Pennsylvania in 2013, she began teaching at her high school alma mater and also earned an MA in Spanish and Latin American Literature and Culture from St. Louis University in Madrid, Spain. In 2020, her family moved her to Oʻahu, where Ms. Ortiz is “so happy to be teaching at St. Andrew’s Schools!”

What made you want to pursue a teaching career?  
I have always loved teaching and working with students. I started out in high school as a swim coach for my summer swim team and knew right away that teaching was for me. In college, I briefly considered becoming a school psychologist instead, but ultimately decided that my true love was the classroom, and the Spanish language. I personally love traveling and learning about world languages and cultures, and I wanted to share that with my students!

What is your favorite part about teaching?
It is wonderful to get to know my students and to help them discover new things and step outside their comfort zone. Helping them to work through challenges and seeing their “ah ha!” moments is truly amazing.

What do you currently teach? What have you previously taught?
I currently teach Spanish in grades 8 - 12, 5 Priory and 5 Prep as well as 7th grade English, for which I am the long term substitute for Ms. Chon. Over my teaching career I have taught swimming, Spanish, English, and even some Latin dance to ages five to 20s.  

What goal are you working on?
I am currently working on learning French, Portuguese, and Hawaiian languages. 

What is the best part about teaching at SAS? 
This school is a community of such wonderful people and with such a unique history and school culture. I feel so lucky to be a part of that!

Who or what inspires you?
My students inspire me daily. My family inspires me. My colleagues and friends here at SAS and around the world inspire me. Nature, music, and art inspire me. I think inspiration comes to us in too many ways to count. You never know what will inspire you to be your best or to try something new!

What is the best advice you have been given?
My mom has always told me to do my best and to be true to myself. I think it is excellent advice. Of course, “your best” is different at any given moment and being “true to yourself” looks different as you grow and change. Part of what makes my mom’s advice so great is that it works no matter where you are in your life.

What is your wish for your students?
I wish them much learning, adventure, and above all, happiness. 

What is one interesting thing people may not know about you? 
I have visited or lived in nine different countries so far. Also, when I was in college, I had the amazing opportunity to perform in a show produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. It was a blast!

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?  
I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy swimming and snorkeling, dancing, singing, listening to music both new and familiar, reading, and traveling. I also enjoy a good coloring book! 

Please tell us about your family.   
I grew up in the Philadelphia area in a fantastic, loving, and multicultural family. My parents still live on the east coast, as does my younger sister. My husband Carlos and I met in college. His family is Colombian and so I have another wonderful, Spanish-speaking family too! We have two awesome kids, Adrián (3) and Rosie (1). No pets at the moment, although recently I have been hearing a lot about dogs from my son… so maybe one day.