Señora Godoy-Ramos

Once again, Mrs. Ramos dips into her knowledge--and her handy Spanish-English dictionary-- to compare words or perhaps find a means of enlightenment for her students.

During the first few weeks of class, Seņora Godoy-Ramos makes sure her high standards are known by intentionally trying not to smile. In this way she develops an atmosphere conducive to respect and learning. And, in case of any mishaps, she can always pull out her gorilla face. This well known "gorilla reaction" is the common result of an offensive barrage of improper grammar. Much like the white gorillas of Barcelona Zoo, Sra. Godoy Ramos has been seen in hyperventilation-like phases. These peculiar phases are marked by her flailing arms, as if a bear attack has just occurred. The fits are accompanied by a clenched jaw and a scream or primitive guttural sound. Most importantly, this tough demeanor-much like the male silverback gorilla-shows students they're on her turf.

Nevertheless, as I casually sat down to talk with Seņora Godoy-Ramos, a woman often regarded as terrifying, I felt comfortable. After all, I've known her for over five years, and I have gotten accustomed to her ways. So, I wasn't surprised at all when one of the first things she told me, in her demanding, but reassuring voice, is that I was expected to do some of the interview in Spanish. I began, and soon realized that it was best to not stick to a formal agenda of questions, but to once again listen to my teacher. It was quite obvious I was in for yet another "experiencia de aprendisaje": learning experience.

Clearly displayed on the wall of Señora's classroom is this postcard of the male silverback gorilla, which she enjoys imitating when circumstances (such as bad grammar or pronunciation) arise.

Born in New Orleans, she grew up with her two brothers; one is a writer, the other produces documentaries for PBS. Aside from the more than sufficient excitement of New Orleans, Sra. Godoy-Ramos has lived in Stockholm, Spain, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Venezuela. Senora spent parts of her youth in Venezuela an account of her father's occupation as a Venezuelan diplomat.

During her educational career, Sra Godoy-Ramos has traveled in several directions. First, she went to boarding school in Surrey, England. From there, she went to Trinity College in Washington D.C. Her junior year of college, Mrs. Ramos studied abroad at the University of Madrid. She also received a Fulbright Scholarship to study the political system in Venezuela. While she was there, she was offered a range of business positions. "I was to be there for a year, but was asked to stay and teach English and Spanish and do college counseling at the North American Venezuelan Cultural Center." A few years later, she was still living there, and with a husband (whom she met while teaching him and other personnel at Venezuelan Airlines) and her daughter Vanessa. Later on, she got a job as a translator in Caracas.

Throughout all her business experience, educating has been a continuous part of her life. Surely this is visible: in her class, a student learns much more than the formulaic laws of diction and syntax of the Spanish language. And she will attest that it is the job she loves most.

Teaching, of course, is not the only thing she loves. Seņora Ramos classifies herself as a "Hispanophile." "I love Spain. Spain is my bias." starts Sra. Godoy-Ramos before she plunges into a well-thought out, yet obviously genuine discourse. This love of Spain, as well as language, is seen during her class; her study of French, Italian, and Latin is apparent in her catholic knowledge of vocabulary and etymology. Yet she still wants more ("Language is my passion."), so currently Seņora is learning Greek. Spain, linguistics, history, and literature are just a few of the "interesting things" she would like to discuss while eating French cuisine with friends and former students when she retires to her fairy tale: A white cottage in Malaga, located in the southern part of Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea.

Before this, though, Sra Godoy-Ramos will continue teaching, and continue in her excited preparations for being a novice grandmother. Mrs. Ramos' daughter, Vanessa, who is expecting her first child, is Sra Godoy-Ramos' only child. If her determination in so many other areas is any indication, Señora will surely be an expert grandmother.

Sra. Ramos currently lives in Overland Park with her second husband who is a well-established Greek architect. She brags about his successful business endeavors: Chris Ramos has designed local churches, and large, buzzing shopping centers such as Oak Park Mall. She casually, yet abruptly adds. "I hate shopping centers."

Instead of doing mall walking, or shopping, Sra. Godoy-Ramos prefers to walk at a track. "Walking is my therapy." Although, she doesn't continue practicing the sports she played in her youth, swimming and tennis, she also still enjoys reading and thinks every child and adult should read. Another piece of advice she gave me was that teenagers should travel. A large part of her class is teaching people awareness of other cultures. "Diversity is good for this school. There is a lot more out there than tacos and Cinco de Mayo."

Mrs. Ramos feels that if there weren't such an emphasis on grades people could relax and therefore do better. However, such is not life; she knows this and therefore instructs students accordingly. One of the biggest mistakes people make is in developing their study habits. "People lose time watching TV". Also, she feels that we would do better if we had more structure and motivation and were better at prioritization. "Work smarter, not harder," one of her most well known maxims, is often used and praised in her class whenever a student finds an easier way to learn, or memorize, based on logic.

With such a high standard put on education and expected from the student, it's no wonder people are terrified. However, Seņora thinks that's a good thing. And while students don't always appreciate or notice her tough, concerned approach to teaching, it is one of the things that makes her a great teacher. Sra. Ramos wants students to expand their knowledge of language, grammar, and the world. After all, quoth the wise educator: "I love my students."

Teresa Kerbawy, sophomore