No Teaching Happens Without Learning
“Embrace diversity. It can be beautiful and frustrating at the same time but don’t limit yourself if you don’t understand the language.”
Diana Rodríguez Quevedo, PhD
Assistant professor of Spanish
A Dynamic Institution
Diana Rodríguez Quevedo earned her PhD in Latin American literature from the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. As a graduate student, she had the opportunity to be both a teacher’s assistant and instructor. Later on in her career, she taught at Virginia Tech as a visiting assistant professor in both language and literature courses including commercial Spanish. This moment in her career was important in order to keep building her skills and learning more about her field of study. Rodríguez Quevedo said that these were two large institutions, but she was searching something smaller like UE.
She was impressed with how dynamic UE’s foreign language department was. The opportunity for Rodríguez Quevedo to teach a variety of courses was an important factor in coming to UE. She has reflected on how diverse her three environments of teaching were, which kept her active in learning about adaptability. “I had to adapt to American culture and seeing how small liberal arts institutions are more insular. Some students have never left their state or traveled abroad, which opened my eyes to another aspect of youth culture.”
Inquisitive by Nature
Rodríguez Quevedo earned a diploma in early childhood education in Colombia and finished her studies in Toronto. “I always loved teaching from a young age. I really liked sharing and asking questions,” she said. In Toronto, Rodríguez Quevedo had an opportunity to work for a childcare program and was fascinated with learning about other parts of the world. At first, Rodríguez Quevedo pursued going into translation services and took French translation courses and linguistic courses. She even studied them in Spanish as well, but she said “Once I took my first literature course, I was sold on this career path.”
In graduate school, she had great professors who motivated her to take many literature courses in medieval literature, contemporary Latin literature, Brazilian literature, and Portuguese literature. As an inquisitive person, this was endless for her and she truly valued that aspect of learning. “I don’t think I could teach courses on medical Spanish or Spanish culture without the literature background,” Rodríguez Quevedo said. “No teaching happens without learning.”
A Wonderful Transformation
For Rodríguez Quevedo, the wide variety of classes is a strong point for UE because not every semester offers the same courses. “I connect the material to each one,” she says.
One of her favorite courses to teach is elementary Spanish. This course reminds Rodríguez Quevedo of when she learned English at 10 years old. “I was pretty nerdy with dictionary in my hand. I remember very clearly not wanting to make a mistake or make a fool of myself, so I understand why this course is so important to my students,” she said.
For her, it is fascinating to make different connections with different languages. She likes watching how students come in not able to say, “my name is,” but then leave able to talk about their vacation and what they had for dinner. The transformation is quite wonderful to see in a short amount time.
Rodríguez Quevedo also enjoys teaching literature. This is another way to help students keep building their oral, listening, and reading skills. In Rodríguez Quevedo’s Spanish Conversation course, there are games, activities, and exercises so students become efficient in listening and speaking. Rodríguez Quevedo encourages her students to learn about different cultures, dialects, and accents of Spanish-speaking countries and she reminds them to be mindful of how their own personality can change when they engage in that language and in a specific culture.
Be Open to Possibilities
Rodríguez Quevedo wants her students to be open to all possibilities. In her courses, students have the opportunity to question others and question themselves with understanding and respect. Interpreting the world and becoming sensitive of other cultures and ways of living helps to better expose students. Study abroad is often the greatest way to gain exposure and learning a foreign language helps prepare students for those kinds of opportunities. “Maintaining conversations with Spanish speaking people is a rewarding experience for Spanish minors and majors,” said Rodríguez Quevedo. “Embrace diversity. It can be beautiful and frustrating at the same time but don’t limit yourself if you don’t understand the language.”
Don’t Be Afraid to Just Listen
Rodríguez Quevedo recommends to not be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to just listen. “A lot can happen when you just observe.” She says to have the courage to study different areas because you don’t know where learning will lead you. “My childcare experience helped me teach more effective basic Spanish classes for my students.” Of course the professor of Spanish encourages future students to study a foreign language and study abroad. Both of these will widen their mind and perspective for opportunities at personal and professional levels.