Department of Foreign Languages & Anthropology
When a student walks into the Foreign Languages Building at Southeast Missouri State University, chances are he or she will be greeted with a smile and “¡Hola!” from Dr. Debra Lee-DiStefano.
Dr. Lee-DiStefano has been a Spanish professor at Southeast since 2004. She teaches numerous classes including “Spanish Grammar,” “Spanish Language and Culture I, II & III,” “Survey of Spanish Literature” and “Spanish American Culture.”
Lee-DiStefano graduated from Southeast in 1992. She received her master’s degree from 1995 and her doctorate in 2001, both from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
While she enjoys teaching Spanish, her greatest passion is studying people. Perhaps that is the reason she and her students get along so wellᾰbecause she understand them. Students who have taken her classes say she makes them comfortable by establishing a friendship as well as a teacher-student relationship. They claim there is never a dull moment in her classes.
“I really enjoy my students,” Lee-DiStefano said. “I am friends with many who have graduated.”
Being a foreign language professor, is it only appropriate that Lee-DiStefano is a world traveler. She has traveled to Spain, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Germany, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. She frequently takes students on trips to Central America for course credit-hours, and she said that her travels are not nearly complete yet.
“I really want to go to Greece, Vietnam and Thailand,” she said.
Another reason students enjoy Lee-DiStefano’s classes so much may be because her interests are similar to theirs. Take her music taste, for example. Her favorite bands are Godsmack, Beck, Sublime and Korn. And who would think that a college professor would be an avid Simpson’s fan?
“I collect the Simpsons plates and the season collectables,” said Lee-DiStefano.
More than anything else, however, Lee-DiStefano enjoys spending time with her children, whether it is going to the movies, taking a day-trip to St. Louis, or just playing with them at home.
Lee-DiStefano shares the following advice with Southeast students: “Pay attention to the world around you. Get involved and make your voice heard.”