The most consistently used adjective that I see in students’ evaluations of my teaching is “enthusiastic.” In my teaching across the curricular spectrum at various types of institutions (liberal arts colleges and research institutions), I convey to students my enthusiasm for the languages, cultures, and literatures of the Spanish-speaking world in order to craft a sense of community. A student-centered learning community engages a diversity of backgrounds to foster what ACTFL’s 2014 position statement calls “global competence” or, in the MLA 2007 report’s terms, “translingual and transcultural competence.” At all levels, I approach teaching through “decentering”—relativizing one’s own beliefs vis-à-vis another culture’s beliefs and practices—in order to cultivate critical awareness of Spanish (-American) and U.S. Latinx culture.
In beginning and intermediate language courses, I incorporate modules that appeal to students’ diverse learning style preferences. In my experience with both communicative and proficiency-oriented methods, each lesson engages students visually, aurally, and (when possible) tactilely or kinesthetically so that concepts are taught through one sense and reinforced through others. I maintain a student-centered classroom in which student input is maximized so that they take ownership of their own learning experience. Throughout my language courses, I contextualize linguistic concepts within an intercultural framework, preparing students for meaningful cultural exchanges in the target culture as well as for upper-level coursework.
As part of fostering intercultural communication, my courses strengthen students’ capacities to make an argument and support it. Across the curricular spectrum, I incorporate various steps of prewriting and revisions in order to emphasize writing as process. At beginning levels, students write in-class compositions that they then revise for grammar and content. In intermediate courses, students turn in weekly compositions for which the grading criteria—again for grammar and content—become increasingly rigorous as the weeks progress; the increased expectations ensure that students learn from their mistakes and incorporate more sophisticated structures over the course of the semester. In post-intermediate composition courses and in my senior seminars, I incorporate in-class writing workshops in which students edit each other’s papers, a process through which they learn to engage thoughtfully with others’ ideas. At this level I work with students to hone their descriptive, narrative, expository, and argumentative writings on issues related to culture of the Hispanophone world.
Since the learning styles of today’s students are informed by technology and emerging media, I regularly incorporate digital components into my courses. In addition to using YouTube clips and podcasts in class, I use digital elements for student assessment. Students in my Jewish Latin American film course worked in groups to create Video Essays analyzing common themes among multiple films discussed in the course. In my study abroad courses, intermediate students create blogs on topics relevant to Argentine culture to create a virtual museum. My film course on Spanish and Latin American film culminated in students’ creation of online film journals consisting of written and audiovisual elements analyzing the films studied; the projects allowed students to synthesize common themes from the semester using a variety of analytical and creative skills.
In my upper-level senior and graduate seminars, I draw from my own research to foster students’ transcultural competence. My graduate seminar considered Latin American testimonio as a genre that engages with non-fiction writing as well as new forms of media. Testimonio is ideal to “decenter” students in light of the genre’s unique notions of knowledge formation, writing, and political participation. In my time as a junior faculty member, I have directed undergraduate thesis projects on an array of issues related to Latin American culture and have a strong commitment to fostering undergraduate research initiatives.
My training and experience in teaching across the curriculum have allowed me to engage students’ critical thinking and analytical skills, digital literacy, and cultural knowledge in such a way that engages other disciplines and resonates with other areas of students’ intellectual development.