Berthe Kouroublakis, a senior lecturer of the Modern Languages and Culture Department who teaches beginning and intermediate Spanish, is anything but ordinary. She is commonly referred to as “that quintessential language teacher,” who can be seen wearing elaborate clothing with numerous dangling bracelets and earrings. Her colorful clothing and mannerisms are representative of her life story.
When and why did you decide to teach Spanish?
I was always intrigued by other cultures as a child. When I was a child, games revolved around cultures. I would dress up like an Egyptian and speak Arabic. I would place a rose in my mouth and pretend I was Carmen. When I got to college, I decided to teach languages because it incorporated everything that I liked: art, ethnicity, culture, etc. I started with French, and when I started teaching, I decided that teaching more languages would be advantageous – so I began studying German and Spanish.
And did you envision yourself as a flamenco dancer when learning Spanish?
That’s always been my fantasy. It really is. I want to be a flamenco dancer. That’s what I’m coming back as – a flamenco dancer – in my next life. I love the music and the freedom of the dance.
What would be your life story’s genre?
Drama or I am, really, the American dream. I’ve lived it all. But I would say? it has been a drama.
Would you like to expand on that?
I was born in the islands of Greece during World War II. I remember asking my mother for food one time, and she said that we only had water. I remember going door-to-door wanting to trade something for cheese one day, and it was terrible. My mom sold everything to support us during the war. Later, I came to the United States when I was seven or eight. I lived with my grandmother, who was very very traditional, to say it gently.
I think I’ve run out of things to ask.
Well, people commonly ask me if I would consider retiring in Greece. But, I don’t want to escape Rochester because I love where I am now and I love what I’m doing. And, I feel very excited and hopeful for the future.
Cheung is a member of the class of 2011.