A decade and a half ago, Enrique Alcayaga was worlds away from becoming a teacher.

Back then, Alcayaga lived in Guatemala City, where he had just settled in as a lawyer in his private office. Outside of work, Alcayaga volunteered at a local nonprofit, Safe Passage. It was there that he met his now-wife, a New Yorker named Elizabeth Benjamin. "We always shared lunch together," he said. "[Then] we started dating. We fell in love." In 2012, however, his wife grew homesick. She was soon hired to teach Spanish at Noble and Greenough, and decided to return to the United States. "I just felt like my whole world was just crashing in front of me," Alcayaga said.

But Alcayaga was determined to make the relationship work. He traveled to the US himself, and resolved to do whatever it took to make ends meet. While waiting for his work permit, to be approved, Alcayaga started volunteering at the Noble's afternoon classes. It was there that the possibility of teaching first materialized. "I got this image of, I think I can be a teacher," he said. "I speak Spanish fluently, it seems like fun, and I can also do community service." Alcayaga was particularly captivated by the culture of the independent school model which was mostly non-existent in Guatemala.

By 2014, Alcayaga applied to several independent and public schools. One school was Concord Academy, whose language department was then-headed by Adam Bailey. Alcayaga was initially accepted as Wilcox Fellow, where he spent two years gaining teaching experience. That year, however, the Modern and Classical Languages Department did not have the budget to hire more than one candidate—and Alcayaga was not their first choice. But Bailey saw something special in the prospective teacher. "[Bailey said] that the students really connected with [me] when I taught the class," said Alcayaga. Ultimately, Bailey was able to convince CA to hire Alcayaga as a second Wilcox Fellow.

Alcayaga's first year on the job was anything but easy. "I had no experience teaching my native language," he said. "So when I heard the word pretérito in Spanish, I had no idea what that was, as a native speaker." Alcayaga credits much of his teaching improvement during that year to Bailey, who voluntarily offered help and advice. "[Bailey] was teaching me how to teach my classes…so I became a student and I was teaching what I was learning," he said. By the end of the year, Alcayaga had decided to stick to teaching. "Despite all of the challenges I faced, I kind of liked it," he said. "I liked being with teenagers, the energy in the classroom was amazing."

After completing two years as a Wilcox Fellow, Alcayaga became a part-time faculty member at CA. During the summers between 2016 and 2019, he and his wife worked towards master's degrees in Spanish from Middlebury College. "I had my law degree in Guatemala, and I thought, I also need a degree here in the US if I'm going to continue doing this," he said. Alcayaga's involvement with the Middlebury program eventually took him to Argentina, where he also visited the many neighboring Latin American countries. "My goal was not only to see those places but also to get ideas of the culture…and I discovered that I love my native language. Just by teaching it, I became passionate about it," he said.

This passion is an aspect that Alcayaga incorporates even today. "[A] course [students take] with me is just a part of me…most of the things I teach are personal experiences," he said. For Alcayaga, subjects like Honduran immigration or undocumented immigrant employment all stem from his own inherent identity. "[I] try to reach to different cultures to learn about my own culture," he said. Alcayaga also constantly seeks to keep up with the ever-evolving nature of his courses. This past fall, for instance, Alcayaga incorporated a project about modern Latin artists into his Pop Culture elective course. "I made my students teach me about these new mainstream singers," he said. "And it was amazing."

Music is also a hobby Alcayaga pursues outside of teaching. He is an avid electric guitarist, who has performed on several occasions with CA's ever-rotating faculty band. "You're playing a song, which is a type of language too…You are talking to other people through your instruments," he said. Alcayaga is a superfan of Pink Floyd, and especially its lead guitarist David Gilmour, who he cites as an inspiration.

Alcayaga will be joining the Spanish department at Nobles this upcoming fall. "I honestly was not thinking about transitioning schools in the fall,” he said. "I [pictured] myself continuing at Concord Academy for pretty much the rest of my life." The commute to and from CA, however, proved to be an increasing problem—especially since his two young children, who require loads of attention and energy, live 20 miles south in Dedham. Coupled with a frustrating parking situation, Alcayaga decided to find a place closer to home. He ultimately chose Nobles. '"I'm hoping that I can replicate some of the things I've done at Concord Academy [there]" he said.

In his time at CA, Alcayaga has been more than just a teacher of language. He is a paragon of genuine interest in his subjects, a mentor whose deep sense of place and culture shines at every turn, and an individual whose journey is only as unique as the person who walked it. The CA community has been lucky beyond belief to have him as a community member.