Faculty Spotlight: Pilar Lindahl

Our first faculty spotlight features Pilar Lindahl, a beloved and longtime teacher at Sun Valley Community School. After moving from her home country, Spain, Pilar began teaching at the school in 1988 and actually lived in a bus in our back parking lot when she started out! Now, with 31 years at the school, she teaches Upper School Spanish, Film for Spanish Conversation, and Spanish Literature. Whether you see her outdoors or in the classroom, Pilar is sure to give you a warm smile and an amazing story to go with it.

Q: What's your favorite Community School memory?

PL: One can imagine that after 31 years teaching in such a unique school, I have many many favorite memories. It’s very hard to choose from all of them. Here are some:

The World Language Department used to organize a day called "Multicultural Day" to celebrate the different cultures around the world. K-12 students and their parents, teachers, and staff participated in this wonderful but crazy day. There were two projects for the kids: one was to find where their ancestors came from, make flags from all those places and wear them during the day; the other project was to design a poster with the theme of the year (example: We are united in one world) which decorated the school, and we gave out prizes for the best ones. The “world” was divided among all the different grades and each one was in charge of cooking a dish from that part of the world, they also had to wear typical clothing… we had all kinds of performances: dances, songs, skits, speeches, an incredible lunch… It was such a colorful and beautiful day! But, it was so much work! I was dead after weeks and weeks of planning and organizing everybody!
This day brings me another special memory that is dear to me, teaching with my baby boy. I cannot thank the school enough for allowing me to bring Zach to school every day and be able to have him in my classroom (carrying him in my backpack, I even had a crib!) He was such a good little boy! The students loved to have him in the classroom! Sometimes students forget that we teachers are parents too. We all learned good lessons from this experience.

Talking about favorite memories and babies, I have wonderful memories of my former students coming to visit me with their families. Precious moments when they introduced me to their kids as their teacher when they were in high school. This is happening more and more. Getting old!!!

Q: What book is on your bedside table (or what is your go-to book?)

PL: have just finished “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd, I am reading “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead. Two very powerful books that deal with racism, a very relevant topic these days.

Q: What are your top 3 items on your packing list for a backpacking trip?

PL: Well…, apart from the “musts,” I have to have: mosquito repellent because I am allergic to their bites, Benadryl, wipes, and of course, a loud whistle (I am afraid of wild animals! :)

Q: What's the craziest memory you have from your time at Community School?

PL: Once, back in the old days, when I entered my classroom, it was empty. I mean everything gone: books, tables, chairs, bookcases, desk, posters… You can imagine my surprise! It felt like I was dreaming! And, because I am usually one of the earliest at school I could not check with anybody to ask what was going on! When the French teacher arrived and opened her classroom, all my stuff was there in the center of the room piled in the form of a pyramid together with her stuff! Every teacher had something wrong with their classroom. The seniors performed a prank the night before their senior skip day! It took us all day to arrange everything back to normal (the other students had to help, of course)!

Q: What has it been like to come "home" after a year back in Spain?

PL: It has been stressful considering the circumstances. I was planning to return on June 22nd, but I had to flee Spain March 3rd as the situation with COVID was out of control there. I was so happy to come back to the mountains, thinking that nothing will reach the “isolated” beautiful Wood River Valley. I was so shocked to learn that I was coming to the epicenter of the pandemic in Idaho! But, I am still relieved and very happy that, if there is a pandemic, this is the place to be. You can still enjoy the outdoors, and there is room for everyone to observe social distancing. I love both places, Spain and Idaho, and it seems that my heart is torn apart by these two homes so far away from each other.

Q: What lessons have you learned from growing up in Spain?

PL: Family is number one, no matter what. I have 32 cousins and we are all very close, like siblings. Thanks to Whatsapp I can be in touch with all of them from here!
Friends are your extended family, and you make time to spend time with them. Socializing is an essential part of growing up as a person. 
Food is number two. You have to take the time to make healthy meals and to take the time to enjoy them (with family and friends too, of course!) There is nothing better than the Mediterranean diet, and I do my best to continue cooking my favorite dishes here. What I do not like about living in America is the fact that you have to rush through your meals all of the time! ¡Es un pecado, señores!
To be more tolerant.
So many more!

Q: What lessons have you learned from living in Sun Valley?

PL: To be a mom, a wife, and a teacher. My passions!
To take the time to enjoy nature. To be outside, to observe even the most little things along the way. I am getting more and more into wildflower identification and birding.
To be aggressive in the sense of “go get it!” I learned how to be more efficient so I can have more time for myself.

Q: Any more fun facts/crazy stories?

PL: The Outdoor Program used to be so out there in the old times! I am glad to be alive. There were so many crazy adventures during the late 80s and 90s! I think that we were just lucky that nothing serious happened. 

We also had something called “Spring Out.” Teachers took a group of students on different adventures for a week (for example: to ride a train to Portland) The Math teacher, a Fulbright teacher from Senegal (Mamadou Tahga), and I took the kids to San Diego (to visit colleges, Seaworld, Zoo…). When I saw that Mexico was right there, I decided to cross with the students to check the town of Tijuana and have lunch (can you believe it? Tijuana! I did not know then that it was a dangerous town! Naive Pilar, took the kids to Tijuana!) This was my second year in the US and I did not know better. Thank God that nothing bad happened but, again, with my ignorance, I bought a switchblade knife for my husband in the market and when we crossed the border back to the US, all my students passed to the other side but me! This was because I had the knife, which was forbidden in the US then and I was not a citizen, I only had my “resident alien card”. After proving that I was their teacher, I was able to cross. What a scary moment! The students had many jokes for years!