Showing posts from April, 2010

Champaign-Urbana: May Day Immigration Reform Rally

by Ann Abbott
photo by by Armand Emamdjomeh from a New America Media blog post.

Tomorrow (Saturday, May 1, 2010) at 11:00 am there will be a rally at the County Courthouse in downtown Urbana to Protest SB1070. Inform yourself.  Read the press release about the rally,  become a fan of the IDream Coalition on Facebook, subscribe to the IDream-Illinois blog, and visit the website of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to view information about immigrants' rights in Illinois and volunteer opportunities.

UIUC Spanish community service-learning students (SPAN 232 & 332): you can attend the rally and count those hours towards your 28 hours of required service learning work by following these instructions.
Attend the rally.  Arrive on time.  You can observe or participate; it's up to you.Take a picture of yourself at the rally.  (This is the only way for me to confirm you attended.)Send me an e-mail at with your photograph attached, th…

Student Reflection

by Andrew Piotrowski

Immigration Reform

“In the world of ‘Kid-dom’, the mind switches gears rapidly” was one of my favorite quotes from the classic Christmas movie, “A Christmas Story”. Although in different fashion than Ralphie’s troubles with bullies to impatiently expecting to arrive in the mail, I think that the quote also applies to how our political agenda works, as well. The landmark healthcare reform that was so avidly discussed in the media by politicians and pundits alike has enjoyed its time in the spotlight, but since its passage it has been quickly left behind. Next on the agenda is, of course, comprehensive immigration reform. The Obama administration should consider itself fortunate to have a catalyst for thrusting this new issue into the public discourse. The catalyst came in the form of a new immigration law in Arizona, which officially made undocumented migration a state crime, in addition to the federal offenses already in place. It also expanded upon a previo…

Community Partner Spotlight: Central High School

by Kirsten Hope 

I went to Central High School this morning, and I had such a good time! So far, I’ve had really great experiences visiting all the places of service, but Central has been the most fun.  When I got there, our student Jennifer Richardson was working with an ESL student on American History.  The high school student wasn’t Spanish-speaking, but Jennifer did an amazing job helping her even though she didn’t know her native language.  During my visit, there were a few other students who came in for help, all of whom were ESL learners, but whose linguistic backgrounds were not Spanish.  It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get to see any Spanish-speaking going on, but that is one of the caveats we tell students to keep in mind at the beginning of the semester.  In addition to observing the tutoring going on, I also got to participate in some tutoring!! I helped one of the first students to come in on a few questions, and then worked through two pages of American History worksheets…

Community Partner Spotlight: Leal Elementary School

by Kirsten Hope
I went to Leal Elementary School yesterday to visit some of our students who work with bilingual children there.  Finally, I found the experience that I was expecting when going into a school! Leal is everything I expect when I hear "bilingual education."  I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time in each classroom (I visited three), but every class had different things going on, and it was really interesting to see our volunteers working on different projects with the students.  In the first classroom I visited, our student Jill Novak was in the hall reading Charlotte's Web in Spanish with three chicas.  Actually, the girls took turns reading while Jill moderated them.  At the end of each chapter, she asked the girls to summarize what they had just read, and occasionally asked them to make predictions about what would happen next.  The girls told me that they really liked the story and enjoyed the reading.  In the second classroom, I met Dave Barron,…

Student Spotlight: Toni Funk

by Ann Abbott

Toni Funk is a student in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" course this semester.  She recently presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium; search the pdf file for "Funk" and you will find her abstract under PA.21.  This is what Toni wrote about her research:

"My research is about the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Corporate Social Responsibility. The OECD is an intergovernmental organization that has a set of guidelines created to promote CSR  to Multinational Enterprises from OECD countries while they are operating within and outside of their country. I did most of my reserach from the perspective of the environment and compared the guidelines with the environmental international voluntary initiatives that had come before it. It's really very interesting. If you want to check out more about the OECD Guidelines feel free to go to to find out more info!"

I asked Toni a few more questions:


Job Announcement

I received this forwarded message. If you are a native English speaker and translate, consider applying.

Dear ATA Translators:

I am seeking to hire a full-time Spanish-English Quality Manager. Quality Managers proofread/edit translation projects for clients. If you're interested please feel free to reach out to me, and attach a copy of your resume, along with salary requirements.

This position would be based in New York, however, we are open to having people work from one of our other offices where we are set up to do business in the United States. Feel free to review our website at to gain a better understanding of our services and to see our locations.

Or if you happen to know someone who might be a good fit please feel free to pass along my information.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Please note: You must be a native English speaker in order to be considered for this position.
Ania Przechodzka
Senior Recruiter

Student Spotlight: Jill Rollinger

by Ann Abbott

Jill Rollinger was a student in my Business Spanish class during the fall semester of 2009.  She stood out because of her high level of Spanish fluency, really good accent (she studied in Spain), and her critical thinking.  Jill kept me on my toes because I knew she expected a lot from whomever was teaching her!

Because it was a Business Spanish course, we talked often about students' career plans.  Many of my students were also seniors so they were interviewing for jobs and grad school.

Jill studied engineering and Spanish, and here is a note about her career plans:

"I took a job with the Nielsen Company and will be working in Tampa, Fl come summer. I am very excited, and though I'm not sure how yet, I know that my Spanish will come in handy. I also got an offer from Accenture, who I did my final project on, but decided that the consulting lifestyle may not be what I would like to do long term."

Another thing I remember vividly about Jill is that …

How to Write a Good Personal Statement about Your Community Service Learning

by Ann Abbott

I have blogged about Megan Knight here before, and she posted a series of reflections last semester when she was a student in my "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" class. Now Megan is graduating and deciding what she wants to do when she is no longer a student.

Among her many options, Megan is applying to Chile's English Opens Doors program.  (A few years ago I blogged about a former student who was working in that program.) Megan asked me to read her cover letter, which I happily did. She had answered all the questions she was supposed to.  She had all the qualifications.  She had participated in several very unique programs on campus that gave her teaching and leadership experience.  Yet there was no spark to the letter.  Megan and all her truly wonderful talents and achievements didn't jump off the page.

If I remember correctly, I told Megan to start with a bang--a vivid anecdote, an important piece of information about herself, anything that would ma…

Are You a Highly Effective Teacher?

by Ann Abbott

The latest issue of "Kappan" lists some of Steven Farr's findings about successful Teach for America teachers (from his book, Teaching as Leadership).  Although we're not all facing the same challenges at Teach for America teachers, it seems to me that many of the characteristics he lists are true for any teacher.

However, I also feel like some of the characteristics (the last one in particular) can contribute to the already troubling "Mommy-fication" of language instructors.  (Elena Lanza from Northwestern talked to me about "Mommy-fication" at a recent symposium we both attended, and I was immediately struck by how she put a name to something that so many of us have felt.)

What do you think of these characteristics?  What characteristics do you resist? Do you think the characteristics of effective community service learning teachers would be different? Leave a comment!

Set big goals informed by an ambitious and inspiring vision of …

Student Reflection

by Andrew Piotrowski
One notion frequently thrown around to describe our country is that of “freedom”.  Ask any citizen with even the slightest sense of nationalism what makes this the greatest country on the face of the Earth, and he/she will inevitably reply “because you have the freedom to do what you want”.  Private industry is considered the hallmark of freedom, and attempts to reform the private industry are met with fierce rhetoric about the slippery slope towards socialism and an infringement on our constitutional rights.  The equate state-run enterprises with long lines, lack of understanding/caring, and decreased quality in the finished good or service.  However, my experiences this past Tuesday in ECIRMAC have taught me a little different idea of what freedom means to some.

As I arrived to take my hour-long volunteer shift at the center, I was met by two Guatamalan men, who needed to speak with me about a dispute they were having with Ameren, one of the largest …

Moving from Volunteerism to Social Justice

by Ann Abbott

Spanish instructors always face a classroom with students of varying levels of Spanish proficiency. It's a difficult challenge, but one we are used to.  In a Spanish community service learning (CSL) course, I have recently realized that we face a classroom of students with varying levels of politicization and social engagement.  That's not necessarily a more difficult challenge, but it is one that I think fewer of us have thought about and how it our teaching should meet that challenge.

I have posted before about class activities that can help students distinguish between volunteerism and engaged citizenship--speaking at a School Board budget meeting and writing to our elected officials--, and Actividad 18-2 in Comunidades asks students to categorize various responses to social problems as charity, volunteerism or activism.

Now that we're towards the end of the semester, you might consider trying this simple yet challenging activity with your CSL students:


What Would Your Spanish Students Like to Ask Their Community Partners?

by Ann Abbott

Now that we are in the final weeks of the semester, we are looking back on our experiences with Spanish community service learning (CSL) and drawing some conclusions. Lección 19 in Comunidades is about reflection: what role does it play in our everyday lives, why is it important in a Spanish CSL class and what do your reflective essays reveal about your learning over the semester?

One activity in particular (Actividad 19-2, Paso 2 on page 127) asks students what they would like to ask their community partners about their interactions with our Spanish CSL students this semester.

This is what my students would like to ask:
¿Te gusta la ayuda de los estudiantes?- Do you like the students´ help?¿Prefieres una persona con más experiencia? - Would you prefer someone with more experience?Desde tu perspectiva, ¿cómo he afectado yo a los miembros de la comunidad directamente? - How do you think I have helped the community members directly?¿Qué puedo hacer para mejorar mi trabajo …

Classroom Activity to Practice Large Numbers in Spanish

by Ann Abbott

I have blogged here before about how important it is that our Spanish community service learning students know how to say and understand numbers in Spanish.  The problem is, we and they think that they already know how to do that.  But when they have to use large numbers or strings of numbers for a specific purpose--getting down a telephone number, address, ITIN number, etc.--and it is very important that they get it right, students really need additional practice in our classes.

Several years ago, José Miguel Lemus was a TA for "Spanish in the Community" and helped me immensely with the administration of the course and the communication with students and community partners.  Now he is at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Here is an activity about numbers that he suggested, and that I will definitely use in my class when I teach it again:

"En cuanto a los números, he utilizado una dinámica que también me funciona. Hago dos juegos de tarjetas
con números del…

Common Errors in Students' Spanish

by Ann Abbott

In my previous post I shared what motivates my Spanish community service learning (CSL) students when they choose the prompt they will reflect upon in their essays.

Here I'd like to mention some of the common errors in the Spanish they used to tell me their answers.  Learning a second language takes a long time and is very unpredictable.  When will a person learn to use the subjunctive?  What kind of subjunctive?  Does direct correction help or should we recast our students errors? I certainly remember the exact moment when someone in Spain told me, "It's 'gracias por,' not 'gracias para.'" And I don't think I ever made that mistake again. Yet how many student compositions have I corrected and students continue making the exact same errors--not because they're lazy, but because it just hasn't clicked.

I asked students "¿Cómo escoges el tema de tus ensayos de reflexión?" Here are some mistakes students made.
Escojo. Ma…

UIUC: Grad Course on Local Policy and Immigration

by Ann Abbott 

If I were a graduate student, I would take this course by Prof. Stacy Harwood.  If you're not a graduate student, look at the reading list--it can give you lots of ideas and resources for your own approaches to teaching and research about Spanish community service learning.

"UP535 / Local Policy and Immigration
Fall Semester, Wed 5 to 7:50pm, CRN: 55971 / 4 hours

Instructor: Associate Professor Stacy Harwood
Department of Urban & Regional Planning

Explores major issues confronting urban planners working in highly diverse communities that are undergoing rapid demographic, economic, social, and cultural change. Focuses specifically on planning and policy making in communities with large numbers of immigrants, particularly in cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Europe. Weather permitting we will take a field trip to either Chicago or St Louis and explore the local CU community as well. Topics: National versus local impacts of immigration,…

Building a Tagline for Your Social Enterprise

by Ann Abbott

In last week's "Spanish & Entrepreneurship" class, we began to talk about branding.  After looking at the website for Homeboys Industries, we talked about the use of logos, taglines, colors and fonts.  This week we'll continue talking about branding, specifically about clients' experience around your brand. (The book I use for the course, Enterprising Nonprofits, talks about branding on pages 239-244)

Students had to create a tagline for the organization where they do their community service learning.  The first versions were somewhat generic. The tagline for an after-school program for high-risk students, many of whom are Spanish-speakers who recently immigrated to the United States should not be a tag-line about education in general. That tagline could work for any school or any after-school program.  Build your tagline around what is unique about your organization, I told students.  There were some real gems among their second versions.


How Do Service Learning Students Choose Their Reflection Topics?

by Ann Abbott

Each Lección in Comunidades has a corresponding reflection prompt at the Companion Website (you don't need a copy of the book to see its on-line resources).  My "Spanish in the Community" students write six reflections, one of them is a peer-review, and so they have to pick five reflection prompts from among the 23 that are included with the book.  I was expecting to read about lots of different topics.

Instead, I found that many of my students chose to write about the same topics.  During Unit 2, most students chose to reflect on ways in which they had experienced culture shocks similar to the one described in the prompt for Lección 6. And during our work in the last half of the semester, most students chose to respond to the prompt for Lección 11.

I was surprised by this, so I asked my students in class one day, ¨How do you choose the reflection prompts for your reflective essays?"  These were the answers:
Nearly all students said that they choose the…

Student Reflection

by Bridget Kern

With the end of the semester drawing near, now is a good time to reflect on my experiences working in the community. When the semester first began, I was nervous about my placement because I knew that I would be communicating with native Spanish speakers and I was worried that they would notice and judge my grammatical errors. The first time that I volunteered at Spanish Story Time, I felt a little awkward because there was no defined role for me and most of the people that attended the event didn’t know what to make of me. Even during this week’s Spanish Story Time, a parent was speaking Spanish with the course coordinator but when asking me for craft supplies spoke English. This was a very awkward situation because I didn’t know whether to answer in English or Spanish. Another difficulty I faced during the semester was trying to find ways to complete the 28 hour service requirement. Since I earned so few hours from Spanish Story Time, I ended up volunteering at paren…

Community Partner Spotlight: Clases de Catequismo

by Kirsten Hope and Ann Abbott

In this picture you see David Martinsek, a student in "Spanish in the Community" who works at St. John's Catholic Chapel with the students enrolled in the Catechism classes.  In this lesson, David taught the students the word for Peace in seven different languages.

Having a faith-based community partner brings a unique perspective to our Spanish community service learning (CSL) courses. Many religious organizations have held a primary role in fighting for the rights of immigrants, and for social justice in general.

Community Partner Profile: Nuestra Voz

by Kirsten Hope

Photo 1. Prof. Shumate and Allison revising the newsletter.
Photo 2. Claire and Laura editing an email.
Photo 3. Claire and Prof Shumate during the initial discussion.
I attended a part of a meeting of Nuestra Voz today, which is very different from the other service places we offer. Nuestra Voz is an organization which runs a website that connects a web of companies in Costa Rica, encouraging them to work with and for one another in an effort to support sustainable development in Costa Rica. This organization is unlike anything I have ever heard of before. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not very involved with economics or international relations, but this type of organization was completely new to me. The Nuestra Voz crew is very small, comprising four women: Professor Michelle Shumate (the coordinator), Allison Fournier, Claire Fry (both our students), and Laura (Spanish major and student volunteer). Together, these four women develop newsletters for the…

Community Partner Profile: SOAR

by Kirsten Hope
I visited the after-school SOAR program at Booker T. Washington today. I must admit that every time I think I know what to expect, these community partners surprise me. I majored in Spanish Education here at U of I, so I thought I knew what was coming with an after-school program. However, when I met Lila Moore and she began showing me around, I was shocked by the amount of students and tutors participating in this program. SOAR caters to every grade that BTW offers, and there are about 50 students participating in the program currently. In the lower grades, there is a high number of Spanish-speaking students (so most of our students work there), and, Lila said, beginning in third grade students begin the transition into English. I visited each grade level with Lila, and I saw not only our students working with students, but also students from other programs, such as Teacher Education.
The SOAR program gives students an opportunity to work on their homework in a persona…