Showing posts from July, 2009

Youth Entrepreneurship

by Ann Abbott

Carolina Kloecker is interning at ACCION Chicago this summer, and she forwarded me this great clip of a young woman from Chicago and her entrepreneurial endeavor. I think it's a great example of how young people can build a business out of their passion. (In other words, find your passion first; then build a business around it.) I also love the fact that it shows a person of color building something great and being recognized for it.

Finding local angles on the topics that we teach is really important. That's one of the reasons that I like to use The Enterprising Kitchen as an example of social entrepreneurship in my classes. Many of my students read about TEK and say, "I know that neighborhood!"

This video was on, and in the future I will look her for stories that exemplify the entrepreneurial concepts that I teach in my class. The section with videos is especially rich with profiles, interviews and stories that students would e…

Champaign-Urbana: Use Your Spanish

I received this message from a friend of mine.
"Dr. Howard Elementary School is in search of an after school Spanish teacher for the fall. The position is paid too! There is a strong following of parents in the PTA there and the kids are doing great in the language after a year learning with AJ Herzog, Margarita Herrera, and I!

"Please spread the word at La Casa, through the U of I and everywhere in the community to Spanish speakers and Spanish educators (or future educators!!!). Contact the wonderful vice president of the PTA Miss AJ Herzog at if you or anyone you know would be interested!" Sounds like a wonderful opportunity for Spanish students who are studying to be Spanish teachers, or any Spanish CSL student who has done their CSL work in a school.

Student Spotlight: Nicholas Ludmer

by Ann Abbott

Nicholas Ludmer is someone to watch. I believe that he is headed for truly great things. His drive and talent doesn't come from Spanish community service learning (CSL), but I'm happy to see that it fit very well with his values and desire to learn. (I have highlighted his accomplishments on this blog several times, and I hope to continue doing so.)

When students take their CSL work seriously, it can open many doors for them. If they have excelled in their CSL work, I like students to think about how they can use their experience in the following ways:
Request letters of recommendation from their supervisors in the community.Gain insight into different career paths.Add solid information about their accomplishments in their resume (not just a bullet point on their list of volunteer activities).Expand on those accomplishments with specific examples in cover letters and job interviews.Differentiate themselves from other highly qualified college graduates by emphasi…

Spanish Vocabulary to Describe Entrepreneurs

by Ann AbbottWhen I teach social entrepreneurship to my students, one of the first things I need to do is get rid of the mental connection of "Donal Trump" with "entrepreneur." Yes, he is an entrepreneur, but he represents many of the negative connotations of entrepreneurship that our students reject.It helps to give them many alternative examples. I like to giving them examples of real-world social entrepreneurs. Examples of commercial entrepreneurs with a sense of corporate social responsibility. And examples of entrepreneurs that come from countries outside the US.But I also find that students need some new vocabulary to be able to talk about this different type of entrepreneur. (I suspect that this is the case just as much in English as it is in Spanish.) We need to replace words like greedy, corrupt and egotistical with other words like responsible, socially-committed, mission-focused.One of the reasons I really like the video above and the blog post where I f…

This is How Teenagers Consume Media, but How Do They Produce It?

by Ann Abbott I read with interest one teenager's explanation of how teenagers in general consume media. Aside from using Facebook alot, everything else is very different from how I myself consume media. But as an educator, I am interested in how teenagers and young adults produce media. More and more I find myself asking this question: Do they even want to produce it? It's commonplace for educators to say, "Our students know how to use technology better than we do." Hmmmm. Some technology. Not all. Reading the piece, it struck me that everyone he said about media and teenagers suggest that they use it for entertainment and building relationships. They don't seem interested in using media for education. So should we be so intent on forcing it on them in our classes? I do think there are lots of reasons to use technology in our teaching, but we must go into it knowing that they don't already use many of the devices/platforms that we do. For example, I tried very h…

What Are Your Community Partners Going Through Right Now?

Amy, Spanish CSL student, working at ECIRMAC

by Ann Abbott

I hear lots of news stories about how California's budget crisis is affecting social service agencies and the people they serve, but every state seems to be facing the same thing.

How are your community partners doing?

As we all wait to know just how bad the budget cuts are going to be, here is a glimpse of how one of my community partners, East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center, is feeling the impact:

"At this time there have been no cuts in positions at the Refugee Center but long term there will be a negative impact. Staff is worried as they are well aware of the financial difficulties. They are also seeing an increase of demand for the services they provide as families start to implode due to the economic downturn. We are seeing more domestic issues, more parenting problems, more mental health issues, more calls for help in accessing services provided by state offices. The agency does not have the fundi…

Student Evaluations of "Spanish & Entrepreneurship"

by Ann Abbott

I was happy to see students' positive evaluations of the "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course from the spring. It tells me that many things in the course are going well, but I'm always on the look-out for ways to improve. So here are some things that I gleaned from students' comments. (Thank you, students, for writing your honest thoughts!)

Love what you do and it will show. I am passionate about social entrepreneurship, community service learning (CSL) and teaching. Students pick up on that. Many wrote that they appreciated my enthusiasm and that I cared about the students. That's true. Other important personal factors seemed to be that I was "open-minded," fair to all students and interactive. I guess my advice for others would be to simply let your love for your work show.

Students who like CSL, really like CSL. This prerequisite for this course is "Spanish in the Community," kind of an Spanish CSL 101. Therefor…

Virtual Volunteering and Video

by Ann Abbott

A former University of Illinois Spanish student, Sandra Mazuera, recently made this cute video for a contest. Another student recently won a contest for his video about his time in China. Still another former student, Nancy Parman, edited videos for my Spanish in the Community class and made great videos of her own. Marcos Campillo, Spanish community service-learning (CSL) extraordinaire, just filmed and edited videos for Comunidades. My friend Joseph Squier founded a very popular University of Illinois course called Writing with Video. I just uploaded a video to Facebook of my 10-month-old treating the faucet handle like a motorcycle throttle.

It seems just about everyone is making and sharing videos these days.

So can our students give our community partners a hand with the videos they need to make? YouTube's Video Volunteers provides an organized, easy way to put video skills to use. Our students could do projects here, and it's another great example of how…

Champaign-Urbana: Use Your Spanish

The Champaign Public Library wants to have a series of multicultural story times for preschool children in October 2009.

Ms. Ginny O'Brien is looking for someone who might be interested in coming for a morning and doing two back to back sessions. Each session would be about a half an hour in length.

If so, please contact Ms. O'Brien ASAP at the Champaign Public Library. or call my home number at #863-2025.

Ask Your Spanish CSL Students to Reflect on Someone Else's Experience

by Ann Abbott

Do you ever read a semester's worth of your Spanish community service-learning (CSL) students' reflections and start to feel like it's all a little narcissistic? We ask students to tell us about their experiences in the community, their learning, their plans for the future, and then when they do precisely what we ask of them, we read a lot of "me, me, me."

One way to get around that, of course, is to ask them to describe in detail the people in the community, the community itself, and issues.

But another way around self-centered reflection is to ask people to write a letter of recommendation. They have to reflect on someone else to be able to effectively recommend them. Plus, knowing how to write a good letter of recommendation is a good transferrable skill. As a bonus, once students know what it takes to write a good letter of recommendation for someone else, they can make their own letter-writers's job easier by supplying them with all the necess…

Champaign-Urbana: Put Your Spanish to Work on August 5

Spanish speaking volunteers are requested for 2009-2010 registration. Volunteers will be needed to assist with translation as well as distributing and collecting registration materials during this time. Further details will be given at registration. Please refer to the information below regarding the date and time. Thanks again for your assistance. 2009-2010 Elementary School Registration - Booker T. Washington August 5, 2009 ~ 12:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.Nikia M. Kyles, Office ManagerBooker T. Washington, 606 E. Grove St.Champaign, IL 61820Phone: (217) 351-3901; Fax: (217)

Classroom Activity to Define Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

When I teach Spanish community service learning (CSL), I want my students to end the course with a better understanding of the Spanish language, latino cultures and the methodology of CSL itself.

In the first classes of the semester, I do walk them through the tenets of CSL, its goals and why we use it to teach Spanish. But I think I'll start using the following activity to teach them the definition.
Go to (always a source of really great information) and click on "what is service learning?"Have students read slide one and then substitute with specific examples from the academic subject of your course. Example: Tutoring children in an after-school program is service. Reading novels in a Spanish literature course is learning. When Spanish students read books in Spanish and English with Latina/o school children, document which words they both had to look up, and report their progress to teachers and parents--that's service learning. (This i…

Can Spanish Community Service Learning Lead to a Job in the Nonprofit Sector?

by Ann Abbott

I am convinced that Spanish community service learning (CSL) is very valuable for our students' career plans and development. So I was excited to see a tweet about this podcast about "Common Nonprofit Career Search Questions with Meg Busse."

In it, the speaker answers many questions, including how to highlight your volunteer experience. Here are her answers:
Create a category on your resume called "Relevant Experience" and include it there.Explicitly detail the skills you contributed and gained to your volunteer experience.Throughout the podcast, she promotes volunteer work as a great choice for preparing for jobs in general.

Listen to the whole podcast for more details. Consider asking your Spanish CSL students listen to it and then shape their resume--and their CSL experience--accordingly.

There's even more information at's "Career Corner."

Calendar: Start Planning Your Spanish CSL Course Now

by Ann Abbott

June is gone.

July is almost half-way gone.

In exactly five weeks from now, my contract begins for the academic year.

There are two possible reactions to this:

1. Ahhhh. Five more weeks before my duties start.

2. Ack! I have to get things organized now so that I'm not in a panic when classes start.

I'm not panicking, but I am going to start preparing my Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses now. I'll do a little bit each week so that things are as ready as possible when classes actually start.

How about you? Will you wait or jump in now?

I'm sharing my calendar here. Feel free to follow my calendar and to-do list. Let me know if there are any other steps that should be on the list. And let me know if you run into any snags.

Monday, July 13: Course materials
1. Double-check my book order. I had been using a coursepack, but now I'm ordering Comunidades.
2. Re-read the syllabus and make any necessary changes. Again, that change from the coursepack to a te…

Five Reasons to Love Teaching Spanish Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott
1. You have extra time. The way things are set up at the University of Illinois, our Spanish community service learning (CSL) classes meet with the instructor just two hours a week. That certainly doesn't mean the CSL instructors work less, but it does mean that you can have some extra non-classroom time each week to communicate with community partners and students, plan your classes and grade the reflections.

2. You feel inspired. I don't know about you, but after so many years teaching Spanish, sometimes it is hard for me to muster the same enthusiasm I used to have for discussions about "¿Qué hiciste durante el fin de semana?" or oral presentations on Picasso, El Alhambra and paella. Instead, with Spanish CSL you know that your students need you so that they don't fail in the community and that community members need your students to succeed. That may sound like a lot of pressure, but knowing that my teaching actually has an impact in the communi…

Tests: On-line and in Spanish

by Ann Abbott

I never takeFacebook quizzes. My friend Darcy Lear never takes Facebook quizzes. But I think we might be the only two people who don't.

Since they're so popular, why not consider asking your students to take some on-line quizzes in Spanish? They can be a fun way to review geography, learn about popular culture in Spanish-speaking countries, and find out what kind of personality you really have.

Consider using them as a starting point for a reflective essay or an in-class activity.

We could even make our own quiz: What kind of community service-learning student are you?

What would the questions be, and what categories would they fall under?

Student Spotlight: Tim Peters

by Ann Abbott I met Tim Peters when we went on the same trip to China in the summer of 2006 with the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership. Tim was there to do a documentary with two other undergrads, and I was there to learn more about Chinese entrepreneurial education programs and participate in a symposium on social entrpreneurship. Tim then did a Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship at the Small Business Development Center of the College of DuPage, and his documentary eventually won an award. Now Tim is in Argentina on a Fullbright. I've been following his journey through his Facebook updates and pictures, and now he just e-mailed me to tell me this terrific news: "Hey, just wanted to let you know that my Fulbright side project to write for a local magazine has started bearing fruit. They let me write the cover story on recent protests at the local Paraná Wal-Mart...I covered that and did a comparison with interesting WM criticisms in the U.S!" (I think the arti…

Why Students' Community Service Learning Work is So Valuable

by Ann Abbott

Do your Spanish community service learning (CSL) students know how important their work in the community is? Do they know what the consequences can be for Spanish-speakers if the partner organization can't meet its mission?

As I've said before, some CSL students don't see the value of doing office work, especially if it is repetitive--which, of course, most office work is. It is up to us to show them its value to the organization, to their learning and to their future job search.

During the spring semesters, my CSL students who work at the Refugee Center always help a lot of clients fill out the paperwork for their taxes. The Refugee Center charges a nominal fee for this service, but I'm pretty sure that students don't know the full value of what the clients receive with this service. I didn't until Deb Hlavna, Co-Director, told me this story:

Some Chicago-based commercial tax preparation services advertise heavily among the immigrant communities.…

Public Service Announcements for Community Partners

by Ann Abbott In a previous post, I talked about building community-university partnerships that respond to community-identified needs. Clear and frequent communication, as everyone knows, is the key to building and maintaining mutually beneficial partnerships. With one of my community partners, I took this type of communication to another level--I joined the Board of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. At our monthly Board meetings I gain new insights into the Refugee Center's resources and needs. That allows me to think about how to match those resources and needs to my community service-learning (CSL) students' needs and resources. At our last Board meeting, one of the Co-Directors said that they would like to do a Public Service Announcement for the local community-access television stations. A perfect project for an enterprising CSL student who wants to gain skills in research, writing and project organization! And in the end, the student will have a v…

Student Spotlight: Carolina Kloecker's Summer Internship and More

by Ann Abbott Carolina (Carolyn) Kloecker embodies everything I think I Spanish student should be. She is passionate about the language, Hispanic cultures, travel and service. She has taken "Spanish in the Community" and plans to take "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" next year. Finally, she's a woman after my own heart: she's a blogger! You can read all about her adventures studying (and volunteering) in Ecuador at Carolina en Ecuador. Carolina's last post describes her work as a Spanish & Illinois Summer Intern at ACCION Chicago. Here is what she had to say. (Click here to see the entire post.) "So just 2 days after I got back, on Monday June 1st, I started my summer internship at ACCION Chicago. It's a micro-lending Non-profit organization, and we give out small business loans to clients in the Chicagoland area. About 25% of our clients are Spanish-speaking, so I've been able to use my Spanish a decent amount (I would say 2-3 times/wee…

Book Review: ¡A la perfección!

by Ann Abbott

Gac-Artigas, Priscilla.¡A la perfección! Para dominar la mecánica de la escritura. New Jersey: Ediciones Nuevo Espacio--Academic Press ENE: 2009.

I coordinate the Spanish composition course at the University of Illinois, so I am always interested in reviewing new textbooks.

As everyone knows, when we teach Spanish composition we are teaching (at least) two things simulaneously: writing and Spanish. It's not always easy to give each part of that equation its due weight. So I was intrigued by the book by Dra. Priscilla Gac-Artigas and its subtitle: "Para dominar la mecanica de la escritura."

I'm a firm believer that our students need to be careful, accurate writers. Not so much because their literary analyses need to live up to their profs' expectations (which is what the author refers to in the preface), but because in the real world there are real consequences when we make mistakes with our writing. Filling out forms, leaving messages for people, …