Professor Anna Sachs has a passion for teaching her students about the Spanish-speaking world.  (Photo courtesy of Anna Sachs)

By Maria Pou | Staff Writer

Professor Anna Sachs has been teaching Spanish at Kapiʻolani Community College for almost a decade. Even before she became a full-time professor, she was lecturing as a grad student. Sachs completed a Master of Arts in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in 2014 and currently teaches synchronous online classes for both Elementary Spanish 101 and 102.

Sachs did not always aspire to become a professor. In fact, the idea never really crossed her mind until her freshman year of college. Her best friend from high school was attending UH with her and needed to take a foreign language. Sachs, who had taken Spanish all four years of high school, told her that it was an easy A. Her friend decided to take the class but really struggled. Sachs stepped in to help.

“She was in over her head, and I helped tutor her,” Sachs said. “She said, ‘Hey Anna, you’re really good at this. In fact, you’re better than my Spanish teacher. Maybe you should be a Spanish professor.’ I didn’t count it out, and it sort of interested me. … That’s what inspired me to go straight into it. So I went.”

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Sachs has been teaching all of her classes in an online format and has discovered that most of her students prefer this form of instruction. For this reason, she will continue to teach online for the fall semester. Sachs believes that teaching online has allowed her more time to pursue other enjoyable activities. 

“There’s no commute time, so we have a lot more flexibility with what we’re able to do and how much we are able to do,” she said.  “[Teaching online] has sort of allowed me to pursue passions that inspire me to be a more well-rounded individual, which allows me to then show up as my best self for my students.” 

Among other activities, 31-year-old Sachs enjoys roller skating, doing yoga, making ceramics, and working on her zouk skills (Zouk is a Brazilian partner dance).

“Mixed media has always been an important factor in my self-care and mental health journey,” she said, “and there’s only so many pieces of my life that I can do online before I start to feel like a cyborg.”

Sachs was born and raised just 8 minutes from campus on McCully Street, the same street that she lives on now. The University of Hawai’i has always been a big part of her life. Upon graduating high school, Sachs had wanted to travel to the mainland to attend college. When financial circumstances made this impossible, she decided to stay on the island and attend UH Mānoa. 

“A lot of really great things that exist in my life are very much due to and thanks to me having stayed home and attended UH,” she said.

Though she loves her hometown, Sachs travels often. In the past few years, she has been to a number of places including the Yucatan and Oaxaca in Mexico, Australia, and the outer Hawaiian islands. These trips are not without purpose. Sachs sees traveling as professional development and a source of inspiration for her classes.

“I am not a native Spanish speaker; I’m a native English speaker who learned Spanish,” she said. “The pro of that is that I can identify and empathize with the process of learning a language, but the downside is that, yes, I am book-learned and I’ve been speaking Spanish for a very long time now, but there are constantly things that maybe I instinctively don’t know how to say …colloquialisms, slang, and … regional variations. That’s what I get by traveling and hearing how Spanish is spoken on the street.”