Employee Spotlight - Lees

Matt Lees | Government/Sociology Instructor and Division Chair of the Social Sciences, Business, and Education Division| Serving SIC since 2001

Employee Spotlight

Matt Lees


I am a community college alumnus.  I earned an Associates in Arts Degree with a specialization in History and Political Science from Richland Community College in Decatur.

I also have a Bachelors and a Masters degree from the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Loren P. Faculty Member of the Year-2011-2012
NISOD Excellence Award Recipient-2005-2006
Robert C. Spencer Prize for Citizenship
Hack-Kellner Memorial Fund for Public Service
Illinois Board of Higher Education Faculty Advisory Commission Representative 2006-2009
Program Marshal at Commencement (Highest GPA,; M.A.)- 2000 Political Studies Program
University of Illinois at Springfield

Program Marshal at Commencement (Highest GPA,; B.A.)- 1998 Political Studies Program

                                University of Illinois at Springfield

Student Trustee University of Illinois Alumni Association Board of Trustees-2000-2001

What other positions have you held prior to SIC?

I had the opportunity to do a semester long internship during my undergraduate studies at the State Department in Washington, DC where I worked for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and assisted on the Venezuela and Ecuador desks. I enjoyed my time there and learned a lot. Also, I did an externship through SIU-C at Bancomext in Chicago. Banocmext works with the financial and business sector to generate job in Mexico. I conducted all of my work there in Spanish. In graduate school, I was a graduate assistant where I was the sole teacher of my classroom. I also taught for JALC at their alternative high school program and as an ESL instructor for their Continuing Education program. I continue to serve as a translator for the courthouse when needed, and have served as a translator at the local hospital. I also help local Mexican restaurants when needed and I’m known by most as someone they call when they need help with translation. In fact, often I’m referred to as “maestra” which means teacher.  I tutor local high school students and often provide private Spanish classes to others in my community.

What other positions have you held at SIC?

In addition to teaching college students at SIC I also serve currently and have served in the past as a Dual Credit Spanish instructor for Eldorado H. S., Carrier Mills H.S., Pope County H. S., Hardin County H.S., Galatia H. S. and Gallatin County H. S. I also teach students at Rend Lake College and Shawnee Community college.

What does SIC mean to you?

SIC for me is an answer to prayer. The Lord opened the door for me to come and work at this wonderful institution when I needed it the most. The people I work with here are good genuine people that care for one another and are like family to me. I look forward to coming to work every day and feel like it’s where I’m meant to be. The relationships that I have formed here are ones that will last a lifetime.

What is your favorite memory at SIC?

A few of my favorite memories are teaching Zumba to my coworkers during a Professional Development Day, singing the National Anthem at the annual Veterans Day celebration and at home basketball games and participating in adult community choir every year. 

What do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I’m a newlywed so being able to spend time with my husband, Daniel, is always cherished time. I enjoy going to the gym and being active. Thankfully, my husband enjoys being active as well and I’ve gotten him involved in Spartan racing (Obstacle course running) and other running races with me. In fact, we are already signed up to run two half marathons this year. I enjoy singing and dancing, too. In addition, following my favorite sports teams, Chicago Cubs, Denver Nuggets and the Denver Broncos is something I enjoy doing whether it’s watching the games on TV or attending them in person.

Where’s your favorite vacation spot?

I spend a lot of time traveling to Colorado to visit my parents, so it would definitely be one of my favorite spots. Often I will incorporate a race into my travel destination. In addition, I enjoy travelling abroad; Costa Rica and Ecuador are two of my favorite countries. 

Where does your love for Spanish come from?

My parents recognized the importance of raising my brother and myself in a home that welcomed others from diverse backgrounds. I first saw my dad go on a mission trip to Mexico when I was in 8th grade. His trip sparked my interest in studying Spanish once I got to high school, as that was my first opportunity to take a foreign language. Needless to say, I fell in love with the language and took it all 4 years.  I admit I wasn’t the best student in my Spanish class, and it didn’t come easy to me. But, my love and passion for the language pushed me forward in my studies which I believe helps me convey to students that if they’re not good at something in the beginning it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be one day. It takes hard work and dedication to get to where we want to be in life.

Why did you decide to go to Ecuador, South America before starting college?

During my senior year of high school, I realized the only way I was going to learn how to speak Spanish fluently was through total immersion, and that meant I needed to be a foreign exchange student. Thus, with my parents’ blessing I went to Ecuador for a year-long exchange with AFS. This meant I would be gone for an entire year without coming home, attend a high school where the classes were entirely in Spanish and live with a family that were complete strangers before I went and spoke no English. That’s a lot to take in at the age of 18. While in Ecuador, I gained such an appreciation of their culture and mine. It caused me to grow up quickly not ever having been away from home that long and going from a city of 16,000 to over a million people. In fact, during my year AFS awarded me with, “The most adapted student” award. This award was given based on my ability to adapt to my surroundings and how I learned and grew from them. The host family that I was placed with didn’t live in a house, all of the rooms had to be entered into from the outside and we had to wash our clothes on the roof on cement blocks. We had no sink in the bathroom or kitchen, and thus had to brush our teeth outside and wash the dishes on the stove. I won’t say that I didn’t miss the comforts of home; however, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world and it’s changed my perspective on life and the things we so easily take for granted.

What is the best piece of advice you've ever heard and can give to others?

Don’t settle for a mediocre and frustrated life…instead choose to live with faith, hope and expectancy that God’s best is going to happen in your life and in the lives of those around you! –Joyce Meyer

To the world, you may be one person but to one person you may be the world. –Dr. Seuss

I don’t know how my story will end, but nowhere in my text will it ever read… “I gave up.”