Magnarelli a ‘worldly’ woman and professor

By on April 19, 2006

Sharon Magnarelli isn’t just a teacher. She’s a doctor, a published author, a world traveler and a wife.

“Quinnipiac easily lured me away from my previous job,” Magnarelli said. But the petite, fast-talking resident of Durham, Conn., didn’t always want to be a teacher.

Magnarelli, a professor of Spanish at Quinnipiac, began her teaching career here 12 years ago after having taught Spanish at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven for 18 years.

Magnarelli began college with the intention of majoring in mathematics. It didn’t take her long to realize that she didn’t like math and dropped it as her major. Magnarelli spent three years enrolled in courses she actually enjoyed. During her final year, however, the dean approached Magnarelli and warned her that she wouldn’t be able to graduate because she didn’t have a declared major.

After searching through the course catalog, Magnarelli found herself attracted to the Spanish and Education major program even though she does not have a Hispanic background. This led her to complete undergraduate work as a Spanish language teacher and eventually got a job working at a high school for three years.

Magnarelli wasn’t fully content with teaching at a high school level and went on to receive her doctorate degree from Cornell University in Upstate New York.

It was during her time at Cornell that Magnarelli met Louis, who later became her husband. He was also there doing graduate work. They eventually received their PhD’s together before attempting to find jobs in the same area so they could be together.

“I came to Connecticut for him,” Magnarelli said. “We couldn’t find jobs in the same area, so I followed him without a job for a full year.” During this time, Magnarelli worked as a legal aide and a secretary and took other jobs while trying to find something more suited to her degrees.

One choice that wasn’t difficult for Magnarelli was between career and family. Magnarelli decided early in her career that she would always put work first and that she would not have children.

“I find it very difficult to be a professional woman and also be a decent mother,” she said. “Each one is too demanding, and I don’t think I could do both well.”

Magnarelli said “you people are my children” in reference to her students at Quinnipiac.

Over the years, Magnarelli’s enthusiasm for teaching has only increased. She loves teaching both Spanish literature courses as well as basic language courses. Magnarelli described her work as “stimulating, no matter which course it is” and said that she likes absolutely everything she teaches.

Magnarelli described her life as “a series of fortunate accidents.”

“I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish,” Magnarelli said. “I only took Spanish classes in high school because I lived in a small town in Upstate New York, and Spanish was the only language my school offered.”

Now that her teaching career is entirely Spanish oriented, Magnarelli doesn’t seem to have any regrets. She said her favorite aspect of teaching is the great deal of interaction she has with her students.

“I love watching them learn and grow,” she said.

When asked if there was anything she didn’t like about teaching, Magnarelli paused and said “I’m too much of a perfectionist. I push myself too hard.”

In addition to teaching, Magnarelli spends a great deal of her time researching for her literary career. She has published three books and recently finished her fourth. She has already started researching and writing her fifth book.

Magnarelli’s books are works of literary criticism and all focus on Latin America. Her first three books dealt with narrative fiction and analyses of various writers. Her most recent works are about Latin American theater and criticism of plays.

When doing research for her books, Magnarelli does a great deal of traveling.

“I spend about three to four weeks most years in Argentina doing research, and I make sure to get somewhere in Latin America or Spain each year,” Magnarelli said. “It’s a part of my research, but it’s also a great cultural experience,” she said. She traveled to Mexico six or seven times in one year to visit theaters.

“I’m a very lucky person,” Magnarelli said. “I love Quinnipiac, and I have a wonderful job.”


About Alison Feller