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Teacher Feature: Stephanie Matula

Bosu Avunoori

By Shrija Krishnan, Staff Reporter

World and U.S. History teacher Stephanie Matula has always been a people person, a trait which would ultimately help determine her career. While Matula originally planned to pursue nutrition and dietetics, she realized her passion for history halfway through her sophomore year of college after taking history classes for fun. She also always knew she wanted to work with people, and after conducting a study involving kids, the idea of continuously working with them further fueled her decision to switch majors.

For Matula, college also provided a culturally diverse environment — one she didn’t experience during her childhood. 

“I went to the University of Pittsburgh for my undergrad degree, and I went to the University of Michigan for my Master of Education. I would say that those were both wonderful experiences,” Matula said. “It was definitely very different from where I grew up. I would say that I grew up in an area that wasn’t super diverse, so experiencing more diversity in college was definitely a wonderful experience.”

As the co-advisor of SOAR (Students Organized for Anti-Racism) and the Asian American Culture Club, fostering such an environment at Conestoga is also important to her.

“As a person of color, I think it’s important to be that support, especially as a teacher. I know our school is demographically more diverse than I experienced growing up, but it still could use more support in that diversity,” Matula said.

Given the diversity present in Conestoga’s student body, Matula believes that history enables students to learn more about their respective backgrounds and cultures. She feels it is important to take the time to look at the corresponding historical aspects, and to understand how that history may have had an influence on their identity.

“We all have our own identities and histories, and I think for myself, being someone who grew up in a biracial household, being someone who is adopted, it took a lot of time for myself to realize my identity, realize my culture, and tap into that,” Matula said. “I think I did that in high school, and was really thankful for the teachers who helped me do that.”

Matula’s favorite aspect of teaching is working with students. As someone who likes to laugh, she enjoys being able to check in and joke around with her class. She notes that each class has its own culture, and being able to get to know each set of kids and form relationships with them is always a great experience.

“As a teacher you get to know those kids, and get to know the vibe of the room. It’s being able to come to school everyday and know, this period is going to be really energetic, or even if the next period isn’t, they have some part of it that is really fun and exciting to see,” Matula said.

In her free time, Matula enjoys a wide variety of hobbies, ranging from sketching to rock climbing. Describing herself as a “foodie,” she also often explores coffee shops and cafes. As a people person, she enjoys hanging out with friends, and had virtual movie nights with them during quarantine.

Ultimately, Matula hopes students will develop an interest in learning from her class. She doesn’t expect anyone to become a history expert, but wishes students to continue to pursue their own passions, whether or not they have to do with history.

“If (students) find something that they’re interested in, do more research to be invested in it, but also take that time to reflect on yourself as a person and grow on your own identity,” Matula said. “And (it is important) to realize that even if you’re a student, you have the ability and capacity to make an impact in some way shape or form.

Shrija Krishnan can be reached at [email protected].

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