My teaching motivations arise from an incisive command of my discipline of the Spanish language and contemporary Latin American Literature and its contributions to the liberal arts education that values the free pursuit and exchange of ideas and knowledge. As a Spanish professor I firmly believe that foreign language and cultural proficiencies are sine qua non qualities for any individual in order to function in today’s global world. Moreover, the study of Spanish enhances all other areas of academic inquiry.
I view teaching as a performance art – if anything teaching resembles a happening and not a philosophy. Like most happenings my teaching has been traditionally interdisciplinary in nature; both scripted and unscripted; random and carefully orchestrated; spontaneous and meticulously planned; and, most importantly, entirely dependent on active participation from the audience, my students, in order to come to full fruition. Over the course of my academic career my education and scholarly work have informed my teaching as I have continuously integrated my research interests into my classroom where I have proven to be self-directed, resourceful and innovative.
Throughout my years of experience, I have discovered that the best way to actively engage my students is by connecting the subject matter at hand, whether for a service skill-oriented course or a major content-oriented course, to the students’ lived experience. I continuously strive to bring the Spanish language and its literatures to life for my students through creative approaches that require students to think critically about the subject matter while at the same time increasing their proficiency in the four skills of the language. I exemplify these principles in specific classroom goals and practices.
For example, in my advanced Spanish grammar course, students write a newsletter on a topic of their choosing related to Ashland University. The course work for the entire semester then is individualized and contextualized by the creation of the final newsletter. Frequently the programs that the students promote in their writings post the newsletter on their social media sites since the majority of them do not currently market themselves in Spanish in any other format. Since my students select their own topics they become more engaged with the material and strive to improve their command of the Spanish language. Additionally, they are committed to the real-life application of their work. Likewise, in my Latin American civilization course students create video trailers of a specialized topic in a country in Latin America of their choosing. Students investigate a broad range of topics varying from human rights issues in Mexico to the role of the gaucho in Argentine Literature. Assuredly, their vested interest in the research topic coupled with the creation of their video trailers greatly contributes to their depth and breadth of knowledge.
To conclude, whether in language or literature classes, I am dedicated to bringing the insights of Spanish to students’ lived experiences.