By Danielle Dodder
Matt McConnochie, the future Spanish instructor and likely soccer coach for the Marco Island Academy, earned his degree from Yale and honed his understanding of the language and culture in Chile. Not appearing on his resume but endearing nonetheless: He’s also an honorary island “grandchild.”
“My grandparents lived here my entire life,” explains McConnochie. They built a house near Caxambas in 1973, and the family has watched the island grow up in the years since. McConnochie visted his grandparents faithfully and then brought his own children on visits before committing to move here to teach at the charter high school.
“We’re looking forward to getting to know the community, and other young families, more deeply,” adds McConnochie. He met his wife, Jessica, while living in Chile, and they have two young children. They maintain strong ties to Chile and go back each year. “It’s a great opportunity.”
Soccer first drew McConnochie to Chile as a professional player. He stayed on for the next four years to further study Spanish and teach English as a second language to Chileans. Seeing both sides of the language learning curve makes him uniquely qualified to give students an understanding that transcends the textbook recitation many of us recall as standard foreign-language fare. This summer, McConnochie plans to wrap a Master’s thesis that examines modes of Spanish language acquisiton.
After teaching Spanish and coaching soccer for seven years at McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, NY, McConnochie is now excitedly taking on the challenge to develop his own language program from the inside out. “I can sit down and assess who are our students? What do they need?”
The location of the academy brings more scope for practical application of Spanish than Rochester. He regularly prepped his NY students for national Spanish exams, including AP Spanish, but also knows first-hand the value of simply using the language on a regular basis. “Because of this area, I think there will be a closer connection to the Spanish language for students. We can highlight more interpersonal communication. Anyone can march through grammar and vocabulary, but we’re really going to make proficiency a priority,” explains McConnochie.
Like Chilean culture, futbol is an intregal part of McConnochie’s life, and he hopes to bring those skills to a charter high team as well as coach at the club level in Naples.
McConnochie has coached soccer professionally for over twelve years, both club soccer and the New York State West Olympic Development Program. As soccer coach at McQuaid, he led the varsity soccer team to a state number one ranking and sixth place national ranking (ESPN). McConnochie has also been named New York state Section V Coach of the Year. As a player, he was a NSCAA All-American for the Yale team, then went on to play for the US Soccer Region 1 team, and professionally with Deportes Temuco in the Chilean first division.