My teaching style can be summed up by my belief in integrating critical culture at every level and fostering student motivation. With over 10 years of teaching experience, I have taught many courses in Spanish at the elementary, intermediate, and upper university levels, including broader curriculum development and hybrid or “blended” courses.
I have also taught in English, having designed and taught a course for the University of Michigan’s general education curriculum titled, “Revolutions and Reproductive Labor: Reorganizing Care in Latin America during the 20th and 21st Centuries.” Last Spring, I taught a bilingual Latinx/Latin American Studies course, developed through a Great Lakes Colleges Association Grant, with an “opt-in” portion dedicated to Heritage learners.
Below, you can read more about how I teach Spanish at the introductory and elementary levels, as well as my approach to cultural studies courses.
The Critical Language Classroom
When it comes to language teaching, I believe that proficiency in a language is achieved by a student finding meaning in the culture to which it is tied. Many of our contemporary social and ecological challenges, for example, are experienced, told, and written about in Spanish across the Americas. Students, no matter their field of study, will be tasked with creating new, intercultural, life worlds that create meaningful dialogue with these realities. My teaching philosophy is to prepare students to adapt to a rapidly changing terrain and to develop the tools to seek meaningful justice for themselves and with others.
To do this, I bring together cultural studies and applied linguistics theories that increasingly argue for the importance of critical culture and meaning in the second-language classroom and for a “language arts” approach with heritage speakers. This methodology allows me to create a student-centered classroom that demonstrates how Latin America shares much of its history and politics with the United States to provide context for the future. By emphasizing this historical relationship, the stakes of becoming more capable communicators and critical thinkers are more palpable to a diverse set of students. I have tailored my approach for all levels, including those with heritage language learners to honor their Spanish as valid, while also expanding their repertoires. At each level, I cultivate student motivation through metacognition, accessible classrooms, and mentorship.
My philosophy is also carried out through course and curriculum design—which I also believe should be made transparent to students and is instrumental to achieving equity. At the beginning of each course, I discuss with students why I chose which texts, how I constructed the progression of the class and its relation to learning outcomes. For example, instead of assuming aspects of college are common knowledge, I explain the purpose of office hours, how my syllabus works, and effective study skills. We also collectively review class norms for learning about and discussing difficult topics, such as race and other social justice issues. At DePauw, I have worked to create more critical courses at the 200 level that not only meet proficiency goals, but that also employ low stakes activities to make early interventions and design courses with low-cost, often open access, materials. Thoughtful design matched with critical content allows students to begin forming the lifeworld they wish to contribute to in their future.
Although my classes are often conversation oriented, I also encourage students to explore social and ecological challenges through second language writing methods, from collective creative projects to frequent short writing assignments. I strongly believe that writing is a process and in giving students the opportunity to edit and improve their writing after receiving feedback. In my first and second year courses, students complete low-stakes writing assignments in journals, and can revise them for credit. These journals also allow students to share aspects of their personal lives with me and to see feedback not as failure, but learning. I also facilitate peer feedback to reinforce that the final product is, in fact, a collaborative process achieved through many rounds of revision. For heritage students, I approach writing with a translingual and socio-linguistic perspective, seeing traditionally stigmatized constructions as sites of negotiation rather than error.
As students do the practical work of applying Spanish in their current or future jobs and communities, for which language instructors play an important role, I also cultivate awareness about themselves, their classmates, and about Latinx histories and futures. This will be essential work in a global, multilingual, society so desperately in need of new lifeworlds.
Curriculum Design, Community, and DEI
Like my language classes, my cultural studies also make use of digital resources–from crónicas published online to “mind maps” and timeline platforms and writing is a central aspect of my pedagogy. For example, creative “un-essays” are another way I engage students beyond the traditional term paper, but I also incorporate regular writing exercises into my classes. Through activities like peer-review (which I do at all levels), I highlight that writing is a process that benefits from community interaction. My hope is that students connect to themselves as writers and come to see the value of writing in their daily lives.
Finally, I believe we all depend on creating community. I have organized Viewing Parties (complete with free tacos, of course!) and also encourage students to share with each other their latest “binge worthy” obsessions in Spanish language content. As we all explore more instructional technology, I am excited by the vast possibilities for student engagement and community building through innovative platforms such as Flipgrid, EdPuzzle, Padlet, etc. and Learning Management Systems, such as Canvas, Moodle or Google Classroom.
Cultural Studies & Upper-Level Courses
Reach out for more information on my other upper and graduate level cultural studies courses that I have designed. Most of my upper level courses engage how cultural production reveals the intersections of racial formation, environment, and social movements.
Past intermediate and upper level courses that I have taught include:
-Latin American Studies & Spanish 295, Race, Ethnicity, and Diaspora in the Americas (English language, co-taught, grant funded, with heritage speaker portion).
-Intermediate II Topics: Eating Well (Hybrid)
-Intermediate I Topics: The Violence of Borders and Broken Bonds: Family, Community, and Migration in Mexico and Central America (Hybrid)
-Latin American Culture and Civilization (Online)
-Introduction to Hispanic Literatures (Survey)
-Latin American and Caribbean Studies, “Revolutions and Reproductive Labor: Reorganizing Care in Latin America during the 20th and 21st Centuries.” English—Designed syllabus
-Conversation through film, “Keeping Track of Dissidents and Narcos: Surveillance in Latin America.” Designed syllabus.
– “Land Battles in Mexico: Reading Crisis and Protest.” Designed syllabus.
-Advanced Grammar, Composition, and Short Story
Adaptable to the upper 200- 400 levels, I have also designed syllabi for several other courses that blend questions of race, ecology, and social reproduction through interdisciplinary study. At the honors or graduate level, I have developed a class called X3: Expropriation, Exploitation, and Extraction in Mexico and Latin America and another on the “Columbian Exchange.” I am also equipped to teach a colonial survey course I have developed titled, “Latin American Colonial Studies: Foundational Questions of Domination and Rebellion.” For Fall 2020, I framed my “Latin American Civilization and Culture” course, found in many college curriculums, as an examination of the inseparable relationship between racialization and colonial environment making, questioning the very idea of “civilization” itself.