Kris McDonald

Speaking Her Language


Kris McDonald has been an instructor of Spanish at Northwestern since 2005. A lover of languages, she and her family are also big fans of Broadway. Their favorite musicals include Wicked, Les Misérables and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Kris is currently obsessed with the production of Hamilton and can rap almost the entire first act from memory.

After earning your undergraduate degree, you spent a year teaching English in Taiwan. What drew you there?
I had just finished a challenging student teaching experience and decided I never wanted to teach again. God has a great sense of humor like that. Although my job was technically to teach English, the position was more about learning from another culture. I discovered fascinating aspects of Chinese language and culture that helped me see life from an entirely different perspective.

Both your daughters are teachers, and your husband is a high school guidance counselor and former English teacher. What inspired your entire family to be educators?
It comes down to the fact that all of us have been positively impacted by educators—both teachers and coaches—who have poured into all of us at critical points in our lives. Teaching can often be a thankless job, but I find huge satisfaction when I see students grow into people who are making a difference in the lives of others.

You’ve traveled to Nicaragua during Northwestern’s Spring Service Partnerships multiple times. What keeps you going back?
During my first trip to Bluefields, I met a four-year-old girl named Arlene at the Tabitha House Orphanage. She’s 15 now. I love going back to see how Arlene is growing up to be a godly young woman and to reconnect with her each time I visit. I know my time with her is short, but she knows that whether or not I go every year, I’m praying for her, I haven’t forgotten her, and I’m cheering for her.

You and your husband, Todd, are quite active in Orange City’s annual Tulip Festival. What roles have you had in the event?
We spent five years on the Steering Committee, which plans the entire festival. It was humbling to see how so many community members come together to carry out the million little details that make up the Tulip Festival. Since about 1991, we have been involved in Volksdansparen, the adult Dutch dancers. We’ve been teaching the dances for several years now and love it! Our family has also been involved in some of the Night Show performances, most recently last year’s production of Shrek, which my husband co-directed while I helped with costuming. The highlight of my Tulip Festival every year is marching in MOC-Floyd Valley’s Pride of the Dutchmen alumni band in the Saturday night parade.

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