By Megan Cavanaugh
Born and raised in the Netherlands, Spanish adjunct professor Tatjana Durand has had a unique life.
“It’s my life, it’s not very exciting. It’s fun, I enjoyed it and it’s mine, but it’s not very exciting,” she said.
In the middle of high school, she traveled to Spain for six months to learn Spanish. She loved it. Though, when she returned, her mother didn’t want her to go back. She did, however, allow her to go to Paris as a student.
Durand spent a little over a year living with a family and studying French, but when she returned home, she still wanted to go to Spain. Her mother complied and she returned to Spain for about a year.
When Durand returned to the Netherlands, she had not graduated, so she got the equivalent to a GED and worked as a secretary for a Venezuelan shipping company in Amsterdam.
Soon after, her mother married an American and moved to the U.S. Though she considers it a mistake to have moved in with her mom and her step dad, she wouldn’t be where she is today if she hadn’t.
In the states, she met Dennis, her husband. She was so excited to leave her mom and her step dad that she married him after three dates.
“What did I know about that guy, three dates? If our engagement was any longer, I probably wouldn’t have married him,” Durand said, though as immediately as possible after they got married, they had four children.
But, after 45 years of marriage, she says, he’s okay.
Her husband moved around a lot because he never could fall in love with a job. When she and her husband moved to Mankato, she told him she was not moving again. If he did, fine, but she was not.
He did end up moving to Nevada for a little over a year, but he moved back after he got tired of that job, too.
When her youngest was in Kindergarten, she decided to go to college to see what it was like, but she wanted to study something she knew. She got a Bachelor’s degree in French and Spanish easily because she already knew so much.
She taught Spanish in a Jordan elementary and high school for two years, and subbed long-term at Loyola for one year. During this time, her father passed away and left her some money. She went back to school and got a Master’s in Spanish and English as a Second Language.
“When I got my degree, my husband said, ‘you’re going to be off in the summer, all summer? I want that too.’ So he got his degree in special education,” she said.
Together, with summers off, the couple took many summer vacations with their children. Every three years they would go abroad. Every other summer they would take their camper around the U.S.
“That was fun. We loved traveling,” she said.
In 1989, William Kessel hired Durand as a Spanish professor. Her classes were small until Bethany became a four-year college and required one year of language.
Since then, her classes have grown, and her favorite part is meeting and getting to know students.
In her retirement, she plans on traveling the U.S. again. She and her husband bought a camper, and are planning on traveling to Alaska this summer. They’ve come up with a system that works well for them. He drives and she reads aloud.
For the past three years, Durand’s 91-year-old mother has been living with them. She will continue to care for her.
“She’s not as self-sufficient as she should be,” Durand said. “She’s not physically impaired, she just mentally doesn’t want to do anything.”
Though she is 71 years young, Durand doesn’t mind running around. Whether it is traveling, caring for her mother or teaching, Durand keeps herself busy.
“I don’t feel that old. I just run around and do stuff,” she said.
When it comes to college, Durand wishes more people would attend at a later age.
“It would work better, you would have more experience, you know what you’re after,” she said. “You’re not just swimming in a sea going ‘where’s shore?’”
She enjoyed college, attending around 35-40 years old. Her hope is that everyone would enjoy life as she has.
“Don’t think college is the last time you’ll be learning. You’ll be learning the rest of your life. You have to,” she said. “Here I am with a GED and two master’s degrees. It’s never too late to learn.”
Teaching is a passion Durand will miss.
“I just want to say thank you to all the students I’ve had. I’ve really enjoyed them,” she said. “I’ve never had a day when I didn’t want to go to work.”
Students and professors alike will miss her too.
“Tatjana was my professor for History of Spain my senior year,” said ESL professor Nick Cook. “I remember her expecting a lot and as a result, learning a lot. Another thing about Tatjana is that she is really a very kind-hearted person and I love getting to hear all kinds of interesting stories that she has to tell, both from her time here at Bethany and also from her time before starting here. I hope to keep in touch with her, but I’ll miss having her office down the hallway to chat, without a doubt.”