Reina reflects on her years at Eastern


Leah Snyderman

Profesora Reina teaches her AP Spanish students important lessons about the language and culture.

   After 25 years at Eastern, Ms. Sara Reina-Nieves will be retiring at the end of the school year. There is no doubt that her sheer passion and love for education will be missed. 

   It was never originally in Profesora Reina’s plans to become a teacher. She grew up in Spain and was invited by a friend to come study in America. The plan was simple: move to America for two years, get a degree in either nursing or hotel management, learn English, and return to Spain. Soon enough, those two years turned into 33 years.

   While in college, Profesora Reina was offered a class to teach called “Conversations in Spanish” to children and adults. The class was taught at night, and she absolutely loved it. Her students would come from work, many doctors and nurses, and their growing interest in the class made her want to return. 

   “I thought, ‘This is it. This is perfect,’” she said. “Coming to America was a ‘why not’ type of thing that changed my direction drastically.” 

   After graduating from Rowan University, Reina landed a job teaching Spanish at Eastern. Her first year was spent splitting her time between Eastern and Berlin Community School. 

   While teaching in the U.S., Reina has always tried to incorporate her roots and personal experiences into her lessons. She emphasizes the importance of culture and appreciating different lifestyles and values. Part of understanding a new language is learning about the traditions and habits of the people who speak the language, so Reina makes sure to implement culture into her daily lessons. 

   “I try to use my personal experiences as someone who grew up in a Spanish speaking country,” she said. “We have culture within us 24/7, so culture lessons should never be separate; they should just come into daily conversation.”

   By expanding her class to much more than grammar rules, Reina’s students have been able to develop a true understanding of the Spanish language. Throughout her years at Eastern, Reina has always treasured hearing her students tell her the impact learning the language has had on them. 

   The COVID-19 pandemic only made Reina cherish her time at Eastern even more. While being virtual wasn’t always easy, Reina learned to appreciate in person learning and seeing her students sitting in her classroom.

   “I always appreciate being here and having the job that I enjoy,” she said. “I went home many, many, many times saying to myself, “This is what I want to do.’” 

   Reina’s love for teaching is felt by her students. Her true passion for teaching encourages students to fight to learn the language, no matter how hard the lessons can get. 

   Seven years ago, Reina became an adjunct professor at Rowan University and has taught there ever since, in addition to her courses at Eastern. She plans to continue teaching there after her retirement from Eastern.

   “There would be times I would come home at nine o’clock at night with a smile on my face,” she said. “I love teaching way too much to stop.” 

   While Reina will still be teaching next year, she will miss the student body at Eastern. The students that really want to make an impact and being able to educate students who want to be educated have made her job what it is. She will also miss her colleagues who have supported her at a professional and human level. 

   In addition to teaching at Rowan, Reina plans to focus on her health, family, children, and future grandchildren in her retirement. 

   “I’m leaving with a gigantic smile on my face with good, positive energy that I have received from the support of my students and colleagues,” she said. Eastern thanks you, Profesora Reina!