Whether teaching a lower-level language course or an advanced seminar, my approach to teaching Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is threefold: mental, physical and emotional. By this, I mean that when I plan my courses, I keep first and foremost in mind (1) what it is that I want my students to intellectually learn, (2) what I want my students to be able to physically do by the end of the semester, and (3) how I want my students to feel about their experience learning about the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures. To this end, I design my courses to be supportive learning communities that will help students master the four basic skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking Spanish while cultivating the interests and desires of the individual personalities in the class.
In lower-level courses, I create this environment by keeping traditional lecturing to a bare minimum, while engaging students in active group work, discussion, debate, role-play and critical and reflective writing tasks. In upper-level courses, I strive to foster students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills while maintaining a student-centered environment by involving students in the planning and presentation of lessons. For the past two years, I have used a portfolio-based method of student assessment that particularly encourages students to engage with materials studied through reflective writing and creative exercises. These exercises require students to openly question, assimilate and synthesize their understanding of literary, cultural and historical resources. Additionally, these exercises encourage students to be reflective, compelling them to think about how their study of Spanish helps them to grow as individuals and influences how they feel and think about the world. Thus, my three-fold approach to teaching is in keeping with the mission statement of Ithaca College, which is to “provide a foundation for a lifetime of learning” and to foster “intellectual growth, aesthetic appreciation, and character development in our students.”