Friday, October 31, 2008

My Means of Transportation

By Claire Pescheret

I do not have a car down here on campus; therefore, I have had to find alternate means of transportation to and from my community work. I volunteer at Booker T. Washington Elementary which is located at 606 E Grove St., about 18 blocks northeast of my apartment (from which I usually leave). This distance is definitely walk able, but with my schedule there is no time to waste on walking thirty minutes to and from Booker T. Washington. I brought my bike to school this year, hence this has been my main means of transportation, instead. It has proven to be very fast and useful for the times I volunteer.

Having a bike down at school has been fun, but I do have another item to care for. This is not a bad thing…I love making sure things are nice!! I am just not used to bicycle care, because my main means of transportation is a car in my suburban hometown. I have had to worry about a place to store it (As of now, it sits in a hallway of my apartment…I think my roommates don’t mind). Also, I have had to keep proper air volume in the tires. This, I realized, is more of an issue that I thought. I am so used to just having a bike pump in my garage; going to a gas station was different! Let me tell you, though, air in your tires makes for a MUCH more comfortable ride! The other day I also had to do some handy work on my bike, because the chain fell off. Oh, new experiences…

Occasionally, I have had the wonderful privilege of driving my roommate’s car. This is a nice mode of transportation, but it is just so easy! I love the challenge of riding to work, plus it is great exercise!

Refugee and Immigrant Status of Students

By Claire Pescheret

This week in class we discussed how political issues effecting refugees and immigrants may be reflected in some of the classrooms or place in which we are volunteering. A particular part of this discussion that interested me was if we could tell if people we work with were adequately dressed and taken care of at home.

I related this topic specifically to the group of pre-k four year olds who I had worked with immediately before class. I made this instant connection, because it is actually been something I have purposefully observed in these children. Before volunteering at BTW, I figured that I would most likely see some evidence of poorly cared for students; therefore, I kept my eyes open when I first walked in those double doors. I was actually surprised at what I found, though. All of the children seemed dressed in newer clothing that fit them and was appropriate for the temperature outside. I also assumed that some of the children may not be properly fed at home, and as a result devour their afternoon snack. Again, I was proven wrong by this group of little ones.

I believe I do need to take into consideration, though, the fact that I only was observing an 8 person cross-section of the school. Additionally, this representative population is not representative at all of the school’s population as whole; I am missing 6 other age groups! I attribute my findings to the fact that these young children are all still very dependent on their parents. They cannot do many day-to-day activities, such as dressing, feeding, etc, without the help of others; hence, their parents must help them the best they can. Older children may be seen as more self-sufficient by their parents; thus, the parents believe that they do not have to care for them as much. In these instances care may be in the form of clothing and food, just because these items are hard to come by.

Although, I was not privy to this issue first hand, stories from my fellow students have affirmed that this is an issue in the schools. We may be able to attribute inadequate care to the possible poor economic status of the refugees or immigrants in the area.

Spanish Community-based Learning Influences Student's Career Path

Like I always say, I love hearing from former students. I am always so impressed by their success and drive.

Molly McElhern took "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" with me in the spring of 2008. Well, here are her own words:

"I was in Spanish & Entrepreneurship with you last spring and I volunteered at Booker T. Washington School with Mrs. Carey in the art classroom. I truly enjoyed your class, and am hoping you might be able to help me create a marvellous class of my own to share with students.

"I am currently teaching in a public school in the southwest Chicago suburbs with a Transitional Bilingual (Spanish) certificate. I teach the Bilingual program for pre-K through second graders and feel so fortunate to truly love my job. One condition of the Type 29 certificate requires that I get my regular teaching certificate within 6 years. I am hoping to do that through Northeastern Illinois University.

"While interviewing for Transitional Bilingual teaching positions, I constantly drew from my experience at Booker T. Washington School, thanks to your class. The Master of Science in Instruction for Bicultural/Bilingual Elementary Education at Northeastern Illinois is a program that seems custom-fitted to my interests. ... Wholeheartedly I can say that your class defined my career path for life. However grandiose or dramatic that may sound, I would just like to say thank you!!! I'm so lucky to wake up every day to pursue a job that I love."

When I asked Molly if I could post her story on my blog, she agreed and added: "There is such a need for Bilingual teachers not only in Chicago but all over the state!"

Sometimes I think that students don't realize what an opportunity Spanish community-based learning truly is. Not only is it a unique learning experience, it also has real career development possibilities.

Kelly Lusson already told us that it helped her in job interviews, now Molly tells us the same. Remember that, current students, and try to create an experience for yourself that will serve you well in the future.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Language Issues and Spanish Community-based Learning

In any community-based learning course, you have to be sure that students actually have the skills to be able to benefit the community partner. If students are setting up a local area network for the computers at a community organization, like a graduate student described at the last "Campus-Community Summits" workshop, they have to actually get that network up and running as promised.

But when you're dealing with a second language and community-based learning work that is not based on a concrete project, students' skills are sometimes harder to assess. Is their Spanish actually good enough to help the community partners? Does their language performance in the classroom truly reflect their capabilities in a real-world setting with native speakers? How many or what kind of mistakes are allowable before communication with a non-English speaker breaks down? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Our SPAN 232 students wrote letters to a second-grade classroom in Los Angeles, and a few of the letters were written in perfect Spanish with appropriate content for second-graders.

The majority had grammatical mistakes that the students themselves probably could have caught if they would have carefully re-read what they wrote or asked someone else to read the letter for them. The most common errors were:
  • Agreement, like "Querido estudiantes." Students in 232 should catch that themselves. I believe those errors show carelessness.
  • Prepositions. Students often directly translated things like "I am a student at the University of Illinois." They also left off the "a" that always goes after "asistir."
  • Personal "a." The vast majority of students never put this in their writing. It seems to not even be on their radar.
  • Gerunds versus infinitives. This is trickier and less surprising. Many students simply wrote gerunds in Spanish whenever we would use them in English. But this error actually interfered with my understanding of what they were trying to say.
  • Subjunctive. It is not surprising to find that students don't have the subjunctive under control at this stage. Still, I think the more formulaic and frequent instance of "Espero que..." should at least trigger the question in thier mind, "Is this subjunctive or not?" They can then raise their hand and ask the instructor.
Still, there were some letters that were riddled with errors and non-native-like constructions that made them difficult to comprehend.

I decided to mark the mistakes on the letters and return them to the students so that they could correct and re-write them. It is important when working with the community that you do your very best--in your language, work ethic, initiative, etc.

Mistakes happen. And if you get nervous about mistakes, you'll only make more! That still happens to me. But students should understand that they need to work on their language skills inside and outside of class in order to be respected and work more effectively in the community.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Interview with Jessica Horn of ACCIÓN Chicago

By Carolyn Kloecker, Span 232 student

This past week I completed an assignment for my Business Communications class (SPCM 211) which was to interview someone in a field that I am interested in working for in the future. I asked her many questions about the organization, and lots of information can be found on their website This organization is a Community Partner with Spanish & Illinois, and has an extensive connection with the Spanish-speaking community in the Chicagoland area. Here are a few of the questions and answers from Jessica:

Is ACCIÓN a fairly new organization? How did it begin?
ACCIÓN Chicago started in 1994, but the parent organization, ACCIÓN was started in 1961. It is the largest micro-lending organization, and it began in Venezuela, and took root in the U.S. in 1991.

How do loan officers communicate with clients?
Mostly by phone, as people call in to the office to get a loan for their small business. The website is also a main form of communication, which has the loan application online and many documents for clients.

Is communication mostly in English or Spanish within the office? and with clients?
About 20% of the clients are Spanish-speaking, and the bilingual employees in the office have a larger percentage of their clientel who speak Spanish. Communication in the office is mostly in English, but there are a lot of community activities that ACCIÓN Chicago does where Spanish is used.

What is your typical day like in the office?
Everyone does different work. The Loan Officers (like Ms. Horn) are very mobile, and are working outside of the office almost 25% of the time. The day depends on how many people are applying for loans. At this time, with the economy taking a turn, there is a significant amount of business and there may be lots of paperwork to do in the office. The CEO and VP are also more mobile than the rest of the staff, because they attend more community events and work on development of the company through banks that are connected with ACCIÓN Chicago.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You can speak to me in English

By Claire Pescheret
I have been speaking Spanish for about 10 years throughout my schooling, and I believe I have a good understanding of how to speak and pronounce. Yet, I have discovered that the students who I have worked with at Booker T. Washington Elementary are very perceptive on what my native language is.

My first experience with this phenomenon was in a pre-k classroom. At first, I spoke all in Spanish to the teacher and the students. Thus, the children addressed me in Spanish. Later on, the teacher explained something to me in English and some of the children overheard. Immediately, they began to speak to me in the bit of “Span-glish” they knew. It amazed me that they picked up on this so quickly, and adapted their speech.

I had a similar experience in the first grade classroom I volunteered in. In this instance, when speaking to the children, I mixed up my Spanish words a little, causing the children to not understand what I was trying to say. These students, being a bit more proficient in English, responded to me by saying, “You can speak to me in English.” This surprised me! I was not expecting these students, who spoke to each other and the teacher in primarily Spanish, to pick-up on the fact that I spoke English.

I attribute all of these occurrences to my pronunciation and my appearance. Appearance is something I cannot change, but I will work on my Spanish pronunciation and fluency for this reason alone!

Ethnicity in the school classroom

By Claire Pescheret

Thus far, I have volunteered with multiple grade levels at Booker T. Washington Elementary in order to make up the hours I missed during the first few weeks of school. I have volunteered in a pre-k classroom, a first grade classroom, and a fifth grade classroom. It has been very interesting to observe the differences between these ages.

Primarily, the ethnicity combination of the students has varied in each classroom. The pre-k room was a composed of entirely Spanish speaking ethnicities. They were also not very proficient at speaking English. Their class was in 90% Spanish and 10% English. The first grade room was also entirely composed of students of Spanish speaking ethnicities. These students were a bit more proficient in English. I played a game with the most English proficient of the class to teach them how to spell English words. Only three of them were able to speak and spell the basic words. In the fifth grade classroom was presence of the first African American students. I assisted during reading time; therefore, fluency was easy to gauge among this group. There was the select group that was very proficient in English, a group that was very good at Spanish, but not as good at English, and another group that was simply struggling to read in English.

I struggle with what to attribute my observations of ethnicities to. I do not understand the absence of African American students until the upper grades. Could they have started school at a later age than first grade? This I see to be plausible as a result of the difficulties some of them had reading in the fifth grade. Is there a difference in income and quality of life of the Spanish speaking people of the community versus the African Americans allowing the Spanish speaking ethnicities the resources to start their children in school at the correct age? I wish I knew more about the demographics of Champaign and the surrounding areas. I hope, through my work at the schools and my exposure to new culture, that my questions may be answered.

Food Drive

Although in community-based learning we differentiate between charity and social justice, that certainly doesn't mean that charity is never appropriate.

My kids' school is participating in the Eastern Illinois Foodbank's food drive, and my kids are really excited to particpate and help out, especially after they learned that 40% of the people who benefit from the food they distribute are kids.

I don't have any information on hunger in the local Latino population, but I do know from working and translating at BTW's school registration that a lot of families receive free lunches. Things are even tighter right now, so that must be affecting the diet and nutrition of a lot of people that our students work with.

Want to help?

  • Click on the "Team Up" link and get your friends or club together to act on this.

  • Get some food yourself and drop it off at one of the sites listed on the homepage.

  • If you have food but no time to drop it off at those sites, you can drop it off outside my office (4006 FLB) before October 31, and I'll drop it off at my kids' school.

  • If you want to give but have NO TIME, you can go to the homepage and click on the "donate online now" link.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Distinguished Teacher/Scholar Project Underway

For my Distinguished Teacher/Scholar project, this semester I am organizing Community-Campus Summits.

Val Werpetinski and I have invited community leaders from Champaign-Urbana and Chicago to come to campus and talk to faculty about the communities that they represent. So far, this is what has happened:

Summit 1 focused on leadership and was held on October 8. Panelists were (from left to right) Hattie Paulk from the Champaign Unit 4 Family Information Center, Guadalupe Abreu from the East Central Illinois Refuguee Mutual Assistance Center, and Ben Barbieri from ISS, Inc. We spent the first hour listening to the panelists talk about leadership issues in our community, then we split into small groups for the second hour to delve deeper into how we can best engage students in learning through community-campus connections. Other representatives of community organizations in the audience included Cristina Medrano of Hope Community Health Center and Lynn Peisker, Volunteer Connections Coordinator, United Way. (See more pictures from the Summit throughout this post; click here to see a graphic recording of Summit 1.)

Follow-up Workshop focused on ways to take what we learned at the summit and incorporate it into our teaching. (Power Point slides and specific teaching examples to come.)

Our next meeting will be tomorrow (Wednesday, October 22) from 3-5 at 428 Armory. We will meet with students who have taken courses that engage them with the community so that we can find out their perspectives on if and how that enhances their learning.
Come join us tomorrow!

Social Network Site for the Scholarship of Engagement

Val Werpetinski always does great stuff on our campus related to community-based learning and the scholarship of engagement.

Now she has done something else that goes beyond our campus. She set up a social networking site for the scholarship of engagement.

You don't have to be from Illinois to be in the group. You will get great updates from Val on all kinds of opportunities and resources related to community-based learning and community engagement. In fact, the latest thing Val posted on the blog was about the MacJannet Prize. (I'm thinking about nominating "Spanish & Illinois," even though it looks like they might be more interested in projects that have really big numbers of students participating. I think S&I is big, but it can't compare to some of the campus-wide initiatives other universities have.)

It's also a great way to be part of a community. If you're at the University of Illinois. you can see potential collaborators and allies. If you're at an institution that doesn't have much support for community-based learning, you might feel a bit isolated and frustrated; here you can find a community and share on-line.

Click here to join!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Looking for Students to Translate at Central High School's Parent-Teacher Conferences

I just received an e-mail from Ms. Michelle Shmikler ( from Central High School. She needs people to translate for Spanish-speaking parents at their parent-teacher conferences. Here is the specific information:

"Conference times are Thursday, October 30 (5 till 8 pm) and Friday, October 31 (8 till noon)."

SPAN 232 students, you can use this opportunity to make up any missed CBL hours from this semester. Or you can do it just to have a great experience.

It is SO important that parents be able to communicate with their children's teachers. Imagine all the lost opportunities to cooperate to improve the students' education if the parents cannot communicate effectively with the teacher. And these parents really want to help their children to do their best.

*If you do translate for these parent-teacher conferences, I'd love it if you posted a comment here afterward to tell us about your experiences. That might help next semester's students want to get involved.


Letter Writing Campaign to Los Angeles Second-Graders

I was delighted to find a letter in my mailbox this morning from a little girl in Los Angeles who wrote a letter in Spanish and is looking for someone to write back to her. She's a student in Mr. Villarreal's second grade classroom. He had the great idea to have his students write a letter to Spanish departments across the US. Not only does that help them with their writing, it also encourages his students to consider college for themselves.

Click here to read the letters from Darline and Mr. Villarreal.

So, let's write back!

Every SPAN 232 student should write an individual letter in class. The TAs will collect the letters, give them to me, and I will send them back to Los Angeles.

TAs: please give your students a piece of departmental letterhead to write on. I think the children would like to receive something "official" from our department.

As you write, follow these instructions, please:

1. Tell something about yourself and the U of I.
2. Tell something about SPAN 232 and what you do in the community.
3. Share some encouraging words about studying and going to college in the future.

Mateo Ossman: Former Spanish CBL Student Works through the Current Financial Crisis

And when I say works "through" the crisis, that's literally what I mean. Mateo says that he's putting in 70-80 hours a week at his job at Northern Trust in downtown Chicago, helping clients (old and new) to manage their money during this time of financial upheaval. Those are long hours, sure, but he still has a job while many people in the financial sector (especially with flashier firms) are losing their jobs.

Mateo and his fiancee (Danielle Tripicchio) came down for the football game over the weekend, and he and I met up at Espresso Royale. Personally, it was really great to see Mato again. And for students, he shared some information that I think could benefit you.

Background: Mateo majored in accounting here at the U of I and took Spanish classes. He spent a year in Barcelona. During his senior year he took SPAN 332 "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," did his community-based learning work at ECIRMAC, and wrote a case study (with two other students) about CBL and ECIRMAC for his senior thesis. All of that, plus an accounting major. Wow.

Intercambios: His year in Barcelona obviously meant a lot for Mateo--for his Spanish, for the relationships he formed, for the travel and for the learning (of all kinds). Mateo mentioned something to me that I thought was really smart. Like many students, he had intercambios with Spanish-speakers who wanted to practice their English. But unlike most students, he told his intercambios that instead of just meeting up in a café, they should meet up somewhere signficant. So, for example, one of his intercambios met him where her family worked. So Mateo got to practice his Spanish at the same time he learned about her family and their work. These types of "walking tours" let him work on his language skills and cultural knowledge at the same time.

Entrepreneurial mindset: Thinking about the discussion question Marcos posted for our Facebook group (How do you plan to use your CBL acquired skills in the future? ), I asked Mateo if he has been able to use anything from CBL in his life. He told me that he has been able to apply entrepreneurial concepts from SPAN 332 to his job. People come to him for advice and to bounce ideas off of because he thinks entrepreneurially, innovatively, outside of the box. (I always knew that about you, Mateo!)

I love reconnecting with my former students, and I love giving current students examples of graduates who were in their positions just a few short years ago, took advantage of Spanish CBL, study abroad, etc. and became successful.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mi Pueblo

By Claire Pescheret, Span 232 student

In order to catch up with my hours, I attended a Mi Pueblo conversation table this evening. Mi Pueblo is “a relaxed but organized venue” where Spanish speaking students can come together and practice Spanish. Discussion is guided but very general and informal. It was my first time experiencing this type of language practice. I really enjoyed the hour I spent!

There were five of us total, including the student in charge. Everyone was there for a different reason, which was very interesting. Myself and one other girl were there in order to make-up hours for Spanish 232. There was another boy there who had graduated and was coming to the conversation table meetings just to practice his Spanish to help him in his travels. The last member was a senior, who again was just there for practice. No wonder these two gentlemen use this for practice; it was very helpful! The small group made me feel very comfortable. Each of us was of varying Spanish speaking abilities, but that did not seem to matter. Our conversation at first followed a “first date” format, where we all were simply getting to know one another. As the hour continued, though, conversation moved to deeper subjects such as grad school and favorite foods. The favorite food conversation was helpful for me, because I have a dance coming up and my friends and I wanted to go to a nice dinner before. The group had some great suggestions to offer me!

Overall, I immensely enjoyed the conversation I was privileged to be a part of. I was practicing my Spanish in a different setting than a classroom, which was so refreshing! I will be attending again!! If you are interested, check out Mi Pueblo’s Facebook page (the picture of Machu Picchu is the picture of Mi Pueblo’s page).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Discussion Question on Facebook about CBL

Since Marcos Campillo set up the Facebook Group, "Students of Spanish Community-based Learning SPAN 232/332," I decided to finally take the plunge and join Facebook.
It's fun! (All my students already knew that, I know...)
Marcos has posted a discussion question that I'd love to see the answers to: How do you plan to use your CBL acquired skills in the future?
If you're in the group, let us know your answer.
If you are a current or former student of SPAN 232 and/or 332, join the group and let us know how you are using what you learned through community-based learning already.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Survey: should we keep the diarios digitales in the future?

Spanish 232 "Reflexiones Orales" Problems

By Jim Pierson, Spring 2008 Span 232 student

I took Spanish 232 during the spring '08 semester. For me, it was the best Spanish class I've taken at this university, and I have taken many in the last four years. As such, I have kept up with the Spanish & Illinois Blog and with A Través De La Corriente, the blog my old professor Marcos keeps. Reading through the posts this semester, I learned of the problems current students were having with the diarios digitales.

For me the diarios digitales, they were one of my favorite parts of Span 232! They were challenging but I think they were so valuable for learning the language. I think one of the faults of the Spanish program here is there aren't enough times students are forced to speak Spanish. In most classes, students find any way they can to use English instead of Spanish, something that is frustrating for those that really want to learn the language. Finishing a minor here, I can read and write Spanish very well, but speaking is something I still struggle with sometimes. In Spanish 232, it was great to be able to practice that for the class in two different ways: both in the community in an informal, off the cuff way; and at home for the diarios digitales in a prepared, rehearsed way.

I do understand that the technology aspect can be frustrating. I didn't find it very difficult to manage, as I am personally very experienced with computers, but I can see where problems can arise. However, working with technology, being able to adapt and take advantage of new services, being flexible, and learning to troubleshoot your own computer problems are extremely valuable skills in today's society, regardless of your field of study. Exposure to technology is absolutely necessary for college students; even if you "aren't good with computers", the reality is that you will have to learn to use them. I hope Span 232 continues to force students to use the computers, even through all the difficulties, because all the problems can be overcome and students will learn a lot from the process.

Also, the U of I campus is engrossed in technology. As such, support for computer problems is readily available from a variety of sources. It is unrealistic to think that the instructors of Span 232 can handle all the problems of dozens of students, so the students should be able to find out where else they can go for help. If you live in the residence halls, you can go to the computer labs and ask a Net Tech for help. If you go to the ICS Labs (like in the Union or the English Building) they have staff members on duty all day that can help with problems. I think the instructions Marcos has provided were very good, and even if students couldn't manage it with their own computers, the computer set up in the lab in the FLB would have worked for them.

Even though it can be a challenge to get the technology working, those skills, just like spoken Spanish skills are very valuable and students should take the time to master them. I think its just another benefit of the class that you learn about computers too.

A busy week!

By Claire Pescheret, Span 232 student

Finally getting around to blogging…what a stressful week!! I am sorry I have not updated sooner, but there has been a lot going on in my life recently. The craziness began last weekend in celebration of my 21st birthday with friends from school, friends from home, as well as my family. It was lovely to see and be surrounded by people who cared about me so much. I, then, was welcomed back to school on Sunday with the absolute joy of studying for Physiology and Biochemistry exams. Let’s just say the library started to feel like home after day three… I survived, though, which is a feat in and of itself!

As a result of my diligent preparation of these exams, I did not get to volunteer earlier in the week. I finally began today, though!! It was amazing! I volunteered with Ms. Madrigal in her pre-k classroom at Booker T. Washington Elementary School. The students are all of Spanish speaking decent, hence the class is taught in 90% Spanish and 10% English. This atmosphere was a bit shocking to me. For some reason, my expectation was a group of fluent English and Spanish speaking children, who spoke both languages interchangeably. Instead, the classroom setting is a place to for these children to learn English. They are mostly fluent in Spanish, and it is obvious that it is the primary language spoken in their homes. I am excited at the change from my expectations! As I can help the children with their English, they can help me speak Spanish more fluently.

Liz: UIUC Book Club Pick Features International Service

Hello everyone! I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, Ann asked me to talk about a project I am working on. We both thought it was relevant to Spanish 232, so I’m coming back briefly as a guest blogger.

Right now I am working at the Office of Volunteer Programs and they asked me to be a student representative on the Committee for One Book One Campus (OBOC can be found at ). For those of you that are unfamiliar with this committee, what they do is each year they pick a book for all students to read. Most of the new and incoming students receive the book for free, (otherwise you can pick it up at the Illini Union Bookstore). The committee also plans events throughout the year on topics related to the book. This year’s book is called Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder. The novel is a true story about how the author (Kidder) came to know Dr. Paul Farmer. The reason that I wanted to tell all of you about this book is because Dr. Farmer actually does quite a bit of fundraising in the United States so that he can help provide medical attention to people in impoverished countries like Haiti and Peru.

We are still working on all the different events we need to plan, but I thought I would let you know we are participating in World AIDS Day on December 1st. If anyone is interested in volunteering at this event please contact Stephanie Rieder at .
We are also going to have a group of people discussing their trips to Latin America and Africa and how their experiences impacted them. I will keep you posted; we do not have a date set for this event. If you have any questions about anything, please let me know! I hope you are all well and enjoying your CBL projects!
Take care

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

UIUC Library Offers Trial Access to Great Database

At the University of Illinois we have one of the best libraries in the nation, and I'm fascinated to see how it is leading the way in the transition from traditional library usage (browsing books on the shelf) to digital usage.

This morning we received the message below, and I quickly checked out the "Latino American Experience" link. (You have to be affiliated with the University of Illinois to use it.) I will definitely use many of its resources to enrich my community-based learning courses. It can provide much-needed background information so that students can understand the broader context surrounding the Latino immigration pattern they see in Champaign-Urbana.

Here's the e-mail:

The UIUC Library has a trial for Greenwood's American Mosaic databases until November 30th. To access the modules use the link below. For product information, go to their website:

> African American Experience
American Indian Experience
> Latino American Experience

Please, send comments to me and I will collect them for further consideration of these databases.

Paula Carns. Librarian for Spanish, Italian & Portuguese and interim Librarian for Latin America & Caribbean

Job Recruiting

I'm pasting below an e-mail that we recently received in the Dept. of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese.

Subject: Opportunities with the D. E. Shaw group

I wanted to be sure to let you know that the D. E. Shaw group invites UIUC students to apply for a position with the firm. In an effort to ensure we're reaching all interested undergraduate and graduate students, I was hoping you might be able to pass along the email below. I've included details about the firm, as well as information on how to apply for an interview. If you have the chance, please forward this message on to students in the Department of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese.

Thanks so much for your help.

Sincerely, Bhandavi Chandrashekar

The D. E. Shaw group --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Subject line:] Opportunities with the D. E. Shaw group

We would like to invite all interested UIUC students to apply for positions with our firm. Headquartered in New York City, the D. E. Shaw group is a highly successful investment and technology development firm, with a team that comes from a wide range of backgrounds. A robotics guru. A pro snowboarder. An operatic mezzo-soprano. And a lot of people who excel in subjects ranging from art history and literature to math and CS. They're not conventional "financial types," but then again, neither are we. For more information on current openings, please log on to I-Link.

For all positions, you may also apply anytime by sending a resume and cover letter to The D. E. Shaw group makes a conscious effort to seek out and recruit individuals sharing a history of impressive intellectual or professional achievement. Current employees include a U.S. Women's Chess Champion, a Jeopardy! winner, a World Scrabble Champion, and winners of more than 20 International Math Olympiad medals. Our employees include a number of professional athletes and accomplished artists, and approximately 20% are published authors in genres ranging from academic papers to memoirs and mystery novels. While we certainly welcome applications from individuals with a background or interest in mathematics, computer science, or economics, we are equally interested in speaking with brilliant liberal arts graduates, regardless of major, who are open to the possibility of a career they may never have previously considered. Our work environment is challenging but surprisingly flexible-from the clothes you wear to the time you get to the office, it's pretty much up to you. And we compensate our extraordinary people extraordinarily well.

Sincerely, Strategic Growth. The D. E. Shaw group

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

UIUC Spanish Community-based Learning Now Has Facebook Group

Thanks, Marcos, for creating a group on Facebook.

Group: Students of Spanish Community-based Learning Courses SPAN 232/332Link:

We'd love to have current and past students of SPAN 232 and 332 join the group and start a dialogue.

I would especially love to hear from former students. I remember you all!

Monday, October 13, 2008


By Mujtaba Akhter, Span 232 student

My transportation to Champaign Central H.S. is my very own car: 2004 Toyota Corolla LE, Silver, 4Cylinders, Automatic, Power windows and doors, Cruise control, AM/FM Stereo, CD Player, A/C, Driver/Passenger dual air bags, Cloth seats, and a Highway-estimated 36 mpg – quite fuel efficient if I say so myself. I get routine oil changes, swapped in new tires last year, and had the brake pads replaced this summer. I think it's always important to be able to get my community volunteering with reliability. I wouldn't want my car to break down in the 2-mile drive to the high school. However, if God would like to invoke his wrath upon me, I do have the MTD buses to transport me to and from the high school. I am not such a fan of the bus system on campus, so I would rather walk, but hopefully I won't have to deal with such a situation.

I volunteer during the same time slot as another student in my Spanish232 course on Tuesdays, so she catches a ride with me once a week. There are no meters near Champaign Central, so I can park on whichever street without having to worry about paying a quarter for every 15 minutes. It is nice to get off campus for a little bit of time, because it's interesting to see that there is a community outside of the university. Many of us hail from the Chicagoland suburbs and only think Champaign-Urbana consists of the University of Illinois. It's satisfying to know that I can help out the real community that lives here not just during the school year or just during the four year time span we spend in college. I hope more students at the University of Illinois come to realize that there is a community outside of the college environment and they come to see that they can help it in several manners.


By Mujtaba Akhter, Span 232 student

Hey. How's it going? My name is Mujtaba Akhter and I am currently a senior at the University of Illinois studying Economics. This semester, I am enrolled in Spanish 232 (Spanish in the Community) primarily because I would like to keep up my language skills after studying abroad in Latin America. The university offers a variety of courses in the Spanish department; however, this seemed to be one of the only ones, if not the only one, in which I could have direct conversations with natives of Spanish-speaking countries. At the same time, I was highly motivated by the fact that I would be helping out in the community with students who could really use the extra attention.

I was originally signed up to tutor at the Booker T. Washington Elementary School, but after attending orientation, I came upon the realization that I would not do so well with kids. I have patience for more adult subject matters, but for some reason, I'm really not sure I have the energy to ask kids to be quiet more than once, or have the energy to repeat myself more than once. Therefore, I chose to tutor at the high school level at Champaign Central H.S. I know many of you may be thinking the behavioral situation is probably even worse at this grade level, but I disagree. I think it's different. The students actually understand that they have to be quiet, but they just rebel. I'm not an expert in child psychology, so maybe my views are completely wrong. In any case, I'm helping in the ESL program which takes place during the last period of school. I hope to continually aid these students through their difficulties in the English language and at the same time maintain my own Spanish fluency.

Team Projects from "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" Help During Job Interviews

I just heard from Kelly Lusson, one of the many terrific students in my Spanish & Entrepreneurship (SPAN 332) course in the spring of 2008. She tells me that she's living and working in Tulsa, OK now and that she is "working as a director of sales and catering for Hilton here. The Latin American population is very high in Tulsa and English/Spanish fluency is highly sought after."

SPAN 332 continues with SPAN 232's community-based learning but the content of the course is about social entrepreneurship. Last semester I added a team project for the first time, and each team had to implement an actual community-based project. Kelly's team raised funds to buy books in Spanish for the Latino students in Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

Kelly says that taking an entrepreneurship, doing community-based learning and working on a "real" team project are not just good learning experiences, they help when you look for a job.

Here are Kelly's words:

"The things we did in your class seem to fit the bill for the type of questions interviewers ask. For example: 'Give me an example of when you worked with a group on a project. What type of problems did you face? How did you overcome them?' I could honestly and easily answer all of these questions after working in our 332 group. Another question: 'Give me an example of when you had to think critically and change your plans in order to obtain success on a project.' It's good material."

I know that working in a team can be daunting and difficult for many students, yet I was convinced that it was worth it.

Kelly's job interview experiences prove it.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Girl Scouts Meetings

By Carolyn Kloecker, Span 232

Moving on through the semester, thus far I have worked at 2 girl scout meetings with other volunteers from 232, as well as some organizational meetings and a few recruiting events. At the first meeting with the girls, we did some simple activities that teach the girls about the main purpose of girl scouts. This consists of the Girl Scout Promise which is: "On my honor, I will try, to serve God, and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law" or "Por mi honor, yo trataré: De servir a Dios y a mi patria, Ayudar a las personas en todo momento, Y vivir conforme a la Ley de las Girl Scouts." First we read this promise (in Spanish and English), and then we colored pictures of the hand sign that is done with the Girl Scout promise.

At our second meeting, we worked on what the promise means. I created a small worksheet so that the girls could draw what they think it is to "serve God", "serve my country", and "help people at all times". Also, we looked at the Girl Scout Law, which describes a Girl Scout in a more in depth way, including adjectives such as 'kind', 'caring', 'friendly', 'helpful', and 'courageous'. After this activity, each of the girls created a collage using magazines to describe themselves and what they like. There is a space in the community center where we work to hang up the girls' collages :) I hope to have lots more exciting meetings with the girls!

Volunteering with Span 232

By Claire Pescheret. Spanish 232

I have yet to begin my volunteering at any school. Yet, I am hoping to extend myself in many different areas for the remainder of the semester. I am scheduled to help at Booker T. Washington Elementary, as well as Central High School (I have included images of the school, because this is where I expect to volunteer this most.). Additionally, I plan to attend the conversation tables at La Casa. Through these efforts, I will attempt to gain as close to 28 hours as possible.

Through my volunteering, I am very eager to help others. For me, volunteering is a personal delight. I get so much self-gratification out of merely helping others. Therefore, I cannot wait to begin my work. Additionally, I am interested in the exposure I will gain to differing cultures of the new people I will be surrounded by. I hail from a predominately white, Catholic community, which has left me somewhat sheltered. Yet, my parents have a love of travel, and hence, I have been blessed to venture to many different areas of the world. These experiences have opened my eyes and fostered my zeal for new culture. The culture of the students I will be helping at the schools will be most interesting to me at this point in time, because I feel as if I understand a part of it already, the language. Conversation at La Casa should strengthen these skills, as to many me more confident with my Spanish.

I am sorry for the brevity of this post. There will be more to speak of later…

Monday, October 6, 2008

Teaching and CBL

I just touched base with several former CBL students: Karen Trower, Ashley Mazzola and Amy Huckstadt (pictured on the left with her cousin visiting Mayan ruins in Honduras). They all studied a year in Barcelona, took SPAN 232 "Spanish in the Community" and worked in school settings or at the Refugee Center, and graduated from our program in the teaching of Spanish.
Now they're all teaching Spanish in Illinois high schools. Congratulations, chicas!
I'm sure that they are all excellent teachers, and for many reasons, but I'd like to think that their CBL experiences helped them in this regard. This is how I think CBL can help students who plan to be high school Spanish teachers:
1. Language. These girls all had the benefit of a full year immersion in Spain. Students who come back from Barcelona always have good language skills as well as coping skills for when they find themselves in linguistic "hot water". (That happens all the time when you are abroad, but I think it takes the first semester to get over the fear so that you can develop those coping skills in the second semester!) These skills make these students good at CBL because they take chances with the language, speaking with strangers, and aren't as afraid of making mistakes (because they have already made MANY mistakes while abroad and learned that it isn't fatal). Plus, the fact that their Spanish is already good after a year abroad makes the native Spanish-speakers here interact with them with more confidence and in more complex interactions. This helps the students continue to challenge and improve their listening skills and spoken Spanish, and makes them even stronger Spanish speakers for when they eventually go to the high school classroom.
2. Culture. Although the Latina/o community in our town doesn't consist of many Spaniards, living in Spain for a year does give these students some insight into the cultural similarities that do exist between Spanish cultural and Latin American cultures. That cultural knowledge also aids their communication with native speakers here, and allows them to compare/contrast Spanish culture to the cultural issues they observe in our local Latino community. In the end, they can offer more and more complex cultural insights to their high school students.
3. Empathy. When you study abroad, everything that was easy for you here suddenly becomes harder there. You're a foreigner. You have an accent. You don't know the etiquette. You make the faux pas. So, after studying abroad (especially for an entire academic year), students are better able to understand the challenges that our Latina/o immigrants face--and their not just linguistic ones!--and see things from the other side. That improves the quality of their CBL work and of their reflections. These are all important things that they can pass on to their high school Spanish students.
4. Teacher Training. When these students do their CBL work in a classroom setting, they have even more opportunities to observe how experienced teachers manage their classroom and teach their subjects in Spanish. This simply broadens the spectrum of experiences that they can then bring to their own teaching. And when they do their CBL in a truly bilingual classroom, they are observing content-based teaching, and hopefully they can teach that exact same content to their own second-language learners in high school. Or at the very least, they see how it works.
5. Other Benefits? If you teach Spanish now and did CBL work in high school or college, leave a comment here to let me know if you see other connections between Spanish CBL and teaching Spanish to second-language learners.
Congratulations to all three of these women for their professional accomplishments, their past CBL success, and their continued enthusiasm for the Spanish language and Hispanic/Latino cultures. (And if you have more pictures, send them! I'll post them here.)

My transportation to Girl Scouts (Carolyn)

By Span 232 student Carolyn Kloecker

I thought I might talk about the transportation I use to get to my Community Based Learning activities. Working with Girl Scout troops, every Monday we first go to the Girl Scout office which is south of campus. This is much too far to walk, but not too bad on a bike. I've biked there once, but usually after being at the office on Mondays for about an hour (4-5pm), we go directly to Shadow Wood to work with the girls in the troop (about 5-6:30pm). This transportation is with other cars or with our coordinator in her car.

When I go in the future, I actually plan to either ask for a ride from another volunteer in the class, or ride a bus to the Girl Scout office. People working with this organization have been great about accomodating me, even if I don't really have access to a car. The bus should be a good option because I think it goes right past the office, and then getting to Shadow Wood will always be by car. It isn't as complicated as it sounds! And the buses are fine, I've used them to get to a lot of places around Champaign-Urbana. For anyone else, check out (I'm sure many of you know about the bus transportation, but just in case)


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Spanish & Illinois Internship Leads to Full-Time Job Offer

I just got off the phone with Kelley Sheehan, a student with whom I have worked for the past four years. We talked about her senior honors thesis, and she let me know that she had been offered a full-time position with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in downtown Chicago when she graduates in May.

Congratulations, Kelley!

I think her trajectory is a model for other students to follow. (I just wish she could have studied abroad for an entire academic year...) If I have forgotten anything, I'll trust Kelley to fill in the gaps for me.

1. Took "Spanish & Entrepreneurship," the pilot course which I co-taught with Darcy Lear and worked in the community at Booker T. Washington Elementary School.
2. Did a short summer course in Barcelona.
3. Did a "Spanish & Illinois" Summer Internship at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber was so impressed with Kelley that they hired her out of pocket to return to work with them a second summer.

Same as sophomore summer! Kelley worked on organizing the Chamber's Expo in Navy Pier in August.

1. Kelley is writing a senior thesis with me about language and culture issues related to project management. She's basing her thesis on her own experiences in planning the Chamber's Expo.
2. She's taking good courses: Business & Technical Writing and an International Business course with Prof. Ruth Aguilera (from Barcelona).
3. She gets the job offer from the Chamber to come on board full-time after she graduates. She'll still be interviewing with other places, but she has this opportunity in hand thanks to her intelligence, diligence and style. :)

Students: Kelley is a model to follow!
Thanks to the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for working with our interns over the past three summers.

Thanks to the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the UI Extension for working with us on making the internships possible.