I really like teenagers. I know that sounds as crazy as loving law school, but it’s true.

Donna Matias

Literature, Art Appreciation, Vocabulary, & Writing
VDA Teacher Since 2017

Tell me a little bit about your personal and educational background.
I was born in Hawaii. I moved around a lot as a young kid, and I have a soft spot for the new kid at school. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received came from friends that I met in school who—now as adults—tell me, “You were the first person who ever talked to me” when they came to a new school. My dad was in the Navy, so we always lived in towns by the water;  that’s why I cannot live too far inland without feeling hemmed in. I need easy access to the beach and the vastness of the blue beyond. 

I studied political science and French at San Diego State, and then attended law school at the University of Chicago. I am one of the few people I know who actually really loved law school. But then again, I went because I wanted the intellectual experience more than I wanted to be a lawyer.  (That’s something I would never advise anyone to do in this day and age, given the cost of law school and the job prospects.  I, however, have no regrets.)  I practiced law in corporate law firms and then as a public interest lawyer at the Institute for Justice before settling into a combination of teaching and practice at the University of San Diego School of Law. 

If you specialize in a subject, what made you choose that specialty?
I love words! I love reading them; I love writing them. I love playing with them, arranging them and rearranging them, toying with their multiple meanings, putting them with other words to make meaning. (I love a good pun. Don’t judge!) I have always had a passion for writing, and I hope to help others discover whether they do as well. Junior high is notoriously a difficult time in a lot of ways, and if students can learn to navigate it better and express themselves through writing, then I will have done a good job. Even if they don’t end up loving writing as much as I do, they will at least gain a facility for a critical life skill. 

What do you do in your free time?
When I am not standing at my refrigerator rearranging word magnets, I enjoy all manner of physical activity—running, weightlifting, yoga, cartwheels, obstacle courses, and dancing (with the curtains drawn). I brew my own kombucha and am responsible for the care and feeding of Krusty II, my beloved sourdough starter. I dabble at teaching myself to play the guitar and to paint. And one of these days, I will finally complete that 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle on my table! 

Do you have children of your own?
Yes! Two. Both attended VDA. My daughter Jade is now at USC, where she is majoring in Art History. Kai is in the last stretch of middle school.  Jade studied creative writing at the Orange County School of the Arts, and it looks like Kai will follow in her footsteps next year. Both of my kids amaze me with, among many other things, their wordsmithery. It is both awe-inspiring and highly amusing. 

Is there anything you think parents or prospective parents should know about you?
I really like teenagers. I know that sounds as crazy as loving law school, but it’s true. Teenagers still have one foot in late childhood while the other is stepping into young adulthood. It can be  a very chaotic and confusing time for them to figure out who they are, especially when their peers are in the same boat. I vividly recall what it felt like to be a teenager, especially what it felt like when the adults in my life (parents, teachers, etc.) made the effort to see me as the unique individual I was instead of trying to tell that I should be like everyone else. I empathize with teenagers. The struggle, as they say, is real!