Martha Soper is Concord Academy’s Boys Varsity Squash Coach and a French/Spanish tutor. This semester, she is serving as a substitute teacher for the Modern and Classical Languages Department in French. Soper has a loving family with her husband, two sons and a dog. Soper is extremely happy to be both a coach and a teacher at CA. She thinks the students are amazing because of their self-driven and focused attitudes; throughout her time here, she built great relationships in the community.

Soper is very passionate about the foreign languages she speaks. Her love for them stems from the way languages bridge cultures. Soper’s passion began at a young age when she had a babysitter from Sweden and took notice of their cultural differences. She found such distinction intriguing and set out to learn about other cultures through languages—first French, then Spanish.

“The first time I heard French I was like oh my god, that’s such a beautiful language,” she recalled. Where Soper grew up, there were few people from other cultures, and learning foreign languages was rather difficult. So she sought out every opportunity she could find. Soper took an exchange program to Paris when she was a student at Dana Hall School. Two years into her time at the University of Vermont, she discovered an opportunity to work as a bilingual teacher in French communities in the United States. She was told, however, that she needed to improve her French before joining the program. So, Soper took a year off, went to Paris, fulfilled her dream of going to culinary school, and then lived in the Alps and skied. She took classes at the local college but mostly picked up her French while skiing with her French peers and playing on the tennis team.

Then, she came back to the U.S. and enrolled in the bilingual program. Soper chose to go out to Southwest Louisiana’s French community, where there is a Cajun-majority (descendants of French Canadians) population. It was a culturally diverse and unique place. Soper’s job there was to translate what the teachers said from English into French for students who grew up in French-speaking families.

After the program, Soper continued to explore French, taking on every opportunity she could. She taught French in a private school in Connecticut and a public school in Massachusetts. Then, she taught three homeschooled French children. That experience presented Soper with a new challenge. The children spoke French fluently at home but could not write French. They had no background in grammar and had a hard time with silent letters. Everything Soper knew about teaching French turned inapplicable: “It’s like I had to stand on my head and think entirely differently […] It was a real learning experience for me.” Soper worked with them for about five years.

Soper was able to help people because she speaks their language. Once, she overheard two French-speaking missionary women in a café saying there were women from Congo who needed help. So she asked the missionaries about the women’s needs and went on to teach them English. It was then that she noticed a woman who looked particularly down. It turned out she had to leave her country all alone with an 18-month-old daughter, no money, and minimal English skills. Therefore, Soper helped her get a job, food, and housing. Little by little the woman started learning English. Eventually, Soper also helped her daughter Elysée get a scholarship for school. Soper feels that Elysée is like her daughter too.

For the last four years, Soper has been working with South American squash players who want to come to the U.S. to study. When she was watching squash at Andover, an Ecuadorian doctor there told her that kids from Ecuador would love to have the opportunity to be able to come to school in the U.S. and play squash in high school. Soper could not forget what he said. Later, the doctor introduced her to a brother-and-sister duo in Ecuador. She met with the siblings on Zoom for a whole year, guiding them through the application process for U.S. schools and scholarships and helping them with English. She is happy that they will have the opportunity to come to the U.S. and meet students from an array of cultures. Soper decided to continue helping students in similar circumstances. “I love every piece of this work!” said Soper. “Squash, Spanish, culture and changing lives! What could be better!”