It is in the classroom that I feel happiest and most fulfilled. It is here that I know I am making a difference.
Each of the courses I teach possesses a special place in my heart. In particular, I treasure my SPAN 201A and 201B, Intermediate Spanish. In this environment I often meet first-year students who may find themselves sitting next to a colleague in third-year…It may be at first daunting, but in language learning, we all feel a bit vulnerable and shy again, like young school children. In this vulnerability magic can happen. It is so exciting for me to be part of that fundamental learning process, to see the students begin to master their thoughts in a foreign language, and to use it in meaningful contexts!
Spanish (SPAN) 326, Spanish Golden Age Theatre is also a favourite of mine because it reflects my areas of research. It amazes me to see students initially struggle with the material, only to later reflect on and relate to it. The literature of the Golden Age can seem so removed from our present reality, but when the students and I carefully analyze the various plays, the themes they represent, and the characters that speak to us from the page, we begin to see that we are not that different, that our worries, our conflicts, and our challenges have not evolved as much as we would like to believe. That moment of realization is one that introduces both humility and hope, and it is wonderful to have art play a part in that realization.
SPAN 430, Literary Women in Early Modern Hispanic Culture, is also a favourite because in this course I focus on the extraordinary women of the 16th and 17th centuries who had the courage to challenge their patriarchal reality and put “pen to paper”. I have found this course to be utterly exhilarating. All of the students, both male and female, are left amazed and inspired at the audacity and talent of the women we study.
SPAN 390, Introduction to Spanish Business Translation, is also a fun course for me. The delicate process of translation is one that is often misunderstood and/or under appreciated by people. In this class we discuss various critical issues like the meaning of cultural translation, and the great significance of understanding the “Other” when we embark on the representation of a person’s thoughts, perspectives, etc., in a foreign language. I have learned a great deal from this course, and I am grateful to be able to share this learning experience with my students, particularly at such a critical time in what is becoming an increasingly small world.
Teaching, research and academic service have been tasks deeply intertwined throughout my career. These tasks have often come together in the development and reorganization of language, literature, and translation courses. As an important contribution in the area of teaching, I have fostered a connection between my students and the outside world inviting to my classes well-known poets, literary critics, translators, and members of the Hispanic community. I proposed and carried out the Spanish/English Translation Plan of which I am the Director. I have also developed an exchange program for students enrolled in the Plan with the University of Holguin in, Cuba. Moreover, I incorporated as a requirement for my course Theory and Practice of Translation some translation work within the KW community. Specifically, students are expected to do some translation work at the NGO World Accord, based in Waterloo. This experience gives the students the opportunity to apply their knowledge in the area of translation and at the same time to get to know the humanitarian work that this organization does in developing countries. One of my greatest accomplishments has been the creation of Span 400: Contemporary Latin American Testimonial Literature which has allowed me to share with my students my research expertise in this field and at the same time to instill on them a deep interest in the value of freedom, social justice and democracy. As a final project for this course, students are expected to interview members of the Latin American community who have suffered persecution or imprisonment in their native countries. I am always open to new teaching methodologies in order to make my classes more effective and to facilitate learning.
Throughout the years I have evolved as a teacher with one core belief that has remained constant: being in front of a class makes me as much a learner as my students. As I like to teach the way I like to learn, I encourage students to take ownership of their own learning by allowing them to choose some components of course content, activities and/or evaluation. I am positive this approach helps students to develop their full potential in the class and beyond. In the classroom, I aspire to balance theory, practicality and humour to capture students’ interest and, hopefully, instill a passion for the Spanish language, translation, and Hispanic cultures and literatures. I strive to impart knowledge in a manner conducive to meaningful exchange of ideas that involve, and go beyond, the language and/or literature curriculum, the linguistic experience, and cultural awareness. Ultimately my goal is for my students and I to walk out of each class better people, not only for what they have learnt from me, but what I have learnt from them. It is this collaboration that makes me, and hopefully them, look forward to the next class.
I believe in motivating and awakening the interest of students, not just for the Spanish language but for a different culture and a different way of thinking. In order to achieve this, we need to provide students with the necessary tools to do so. These tools can be found through the use of books and technology, as well as by sharing personal experiences that will incite them to explore more on their own.
To spark the desire to learn, we need to be open to change and be learners ourselves. Learning is a journey that cannot be stopped if we want to offer something of value to our students.
Nevertheless, learning should be fun and engaging.
Cristina Atoche - Spanish Language Instructor
I believe that learning Spanish should be fun and creative. I like to use a mix of different approaches that take into account students’ diverse learning styles. In my classes I incorporate technology, games, music and conversational and writing activities. The key is to keep students motivated so they keep learning outside the class.
I firmly believe that teaching, as an active engagement in community building, must be essentially dialogical. I have a highly interactive and student-centred teaching style, ultimately to develop a relationship based on trust and mutual comprehension. I am always eager to teach introductory courses, as I have always found them highly rewarding. The material is new to students, and even when we think that nothing can surprise us as seasoned instructors, their fresh eyes often catch something new.
In language courses, my student-centred approach is reflected in the variety of methods I use. I aim to strike a balance between immersion and translation from the target language to the learners’ mother tongue. While I believe that immersion is a goal we should strive for in the language classroom, I am also aware that students of all levels might need explanations in their native language. I also draw on my experience as a learner of Spanish, using anecdotes and my own learning strategies... and I never shy away from telling stories of my successful — or unsuccessful — attempts at speaking Spanish as I was learning the language, some 15 years ago. It makes for a relaxed environment!
I also use various types of communicative activities to have the students engaged in a variety of “real-life” situations (round tables, short presentations), and try to expose them to a variety of written texts (microrelato, Tweets, short stories), even in the introductory courses.
Luis Jaimes-Domínguez - Spanish Language Instructor
I discovered my passion for teaching when I had the opportunity as undergraduate student to guide Spanish tutorials at Tallahassee Community College in the United States. To follow my passion, I decided to change my university major from business to Spanish literature. After finishing an Honours BA in Spanish, I continued my studies at University of Guelph, were I obtained a MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies in combination with International Development. At this institution, I also completed the “Teaching Certificate Program: College of Arts Teaching Practicum,” and continued collaborating with students in introductory Spanish courses. I began teaching at the University of Waterloo in 2010. I have taught Spanish language grammar and culture courses, business Spanish and literature. In all of my courses, I maintain a communicative approach to teaching language and culture in which students are able to contextualize Spanish well beyond the boundaries of the classroom in practical applications. In addition, my interests in International Development had given me the opportunity to participate with non-governmental organizations in the Kitchener-Waterloo area as a volunteer, member of committees and English/Spanish translator. My research interests are in Latin American Identity and Culture, Testimonial literature, Migration, and Memory; I also love to travel and have visited over 50 countries around the world.
Ibis Lam - Spanish Language Instructor
My teaching approach involves a lot interactive components such as daily dialogues, conversation, music, short films, games and practical exercises. I also try to introduce fun activities to encourage students’ participation. Learning a language is a two-way process and the more students are actively engaged in the communication aspect of it, language learning is more impactful. It’s always interesting to watch how students who participate the most in these activities experience faster progress.