Foreign Language Develops Critical Thinking
“For me, the most rewarding part of teaching in the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures is to hear from my students that what they have been exposed to in class has challenged them to think more critically, to investigate more thoroughly, to avoid stereotyping and generalizations, and to replace judgment with compassion.”
Assistant Professor of Spanish
Cindy Crowe grew up a few blocks away from the University of Evansville. "I was always attracted to the beautiful campus and had friends who had attended UE, so even though I applied and was accepted at other universities, I decided on UE." Crowe earned her BA and MA at UE. After graduating, she taught Spanish in middle school and high school, and she tutored students of all ages. She also worked as a Spanish and English language trainer for global businesses. Additionally, she taught English as a second language at the state business college in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. Crowe says, "I taught at UE in the late '90s, but took a break so that my husband and I could homeschool our son, and then returned in 2005. UE is like my second home. I guess you could say I bleed purple."
UE is the perfect size for students to succeed in foreign language
Crowe comments, "UE is the perfect size. It is large enough to offer a distinctive liberal arts education and top-quality professional programs, and yet it is small enough for the focus to be on the individual student." She appreciates that UE has a global focus, which includes a very diverse student body, with international students representing 16 percent of the undergrad student population, and a nationally ranked study abroad program, which includes our very own Harlaxton College in England.
Crowe takes pride in the fact that UE students are taught by professors, not graduate assistants. They develop professional one-on-one relationships with faculty, which will benefit them throughout their experience at UE and as they prepare for graduate school or employment. Students in the Department of Foreign Language and Culture also have the opportunity to interact with Fulbright Teaching Assistants from different countries.
Developing curriculum that fits her students' needs
As elementary Spanish requires learning lots of grammar and vocab, which can be tedious, Crowe adds levity and humor to her classes. She points out relationships between English and Spanish words with the aim of increasing vocabulary in both languages. Additionally, she provide mnemonic devices to help students remember the words and the rules. As students develop their Spanish grammar and vocabulary, they are led into conversational Spanish courses. In intermediate Spanish, Crowe provides a relaxed atmosphere wherein students can have fun and feel confident in themselves when they converse in Spanish.
In the upper-level Medical Spanish course, Crowe has her students develop their own lesson plans and presentations for a chapter of the textbook that relates to their interests. She finds that having students take on this responsibility is an effective way to ensure they dig deep into the chapter that relates to the area they intend to pursue in their health profession career. Crowe says, "This technique is not something that I invented but instead is rather common and has been used by professors such as particle physicist and professor Frank Oppenheimer; it is based on the old Latin proverb Docendo discimus: 'by teaching, we learn.'"
Replacing walls with bridges
Crowe's favorite part about teaching foreign language is that by its very nature it imparts a global perspective. Foreign language and cultures is synonymous with diversity. She explains, "When I teach First-Year Seminar or Spanish, one of my major goals is to help the students discover the need to replace walls, whether metaphoric or physical, with bridges." When presenting cultures from different Hispanic countries, she includes an overview of the nation's geography, demographics, gastronomy, literature, music, art, history, economics, and politics and relates these components to help the students better understand the people. Crowe says, "I want my students to understand why people in Latin America are willing to leave their families and risk their lives to come to the US in search of a better life. I want to present facts that we don't generally hear through our media outlets so that students can contemplate and see the complexity of what too often is presented inaccurately or at least incompletely."