Asbury University – Educator of the Month: David Mato

When David Mato arrived in Lexington from Spain as part of a teacher exchange program, he figured six months in America would be enough. Some 12 years later, he can’t imagine living anywhere else. For a dozen years, Mato has found a home at Maxwell Elementary, a Spanish Immersion school. After 10 years as a third-grade teacher, he has spent the past two teaching instructional media. “The people here have been so friendly and the Maxwell parents are so welcoming,” Mato said. “Maxwell is like my family. I feel like this is home. When I get the chance to go back to Spain to visit, I always miss Lexington.” Spain is far from the only place Mato visits. He has toured nearly every country in Europe plus India, Costa Rica, Mexico and Canada, and this spring he is headed to Hong Kong. He also travels throughout the U.S., hitting more than 30 states from New York to Alaska, and has a particular fondness for national parks. But even such an urbane world traveler stumbles at first in a new land. Such was the case for Mato in Kentucky. He had studied British English in Spain, which left him unprepared for Kentucky’s version of the language. “When I went to a bank to open an account, the woman said, ‘May I help you?’ and I couldn’t understand one word she was saying,” Mato said. “It was a shock. Kentucky has a strong accent, don’t you think?” Kentuckians have heard that before. From those beginnings, Mato has become a much-admired fixture at Maxwell Elementary, according to Principal Robert Crawford. “Whether it’s teaching his students how to use Minecraft on the computer to building a virtual Spanish world, planning school celebrations, providing support to classroom teachers or assisting the PTA in planting a butterfly garden, David is a treasure and asset to Maxwell Elementary School,” Crawford said. “He has the respect and admiration of the entire staff. His dedication to the students and the mission of Maxwell is really unparalleled.” Mary Buzard, who has been Mato’s partner teacher for 10 years at Maxwell, marvels at his use of technology to connect with students. “He would make videos of himself teaching a lesson. Kids might turn you off in the classroom but if they see you in a video, they’ll watch,” she said. “David is funny and patient and open to try new things in the classroom.”