Classes help faculty, staff learn Spanish

In his fall 2012 Opening Convocation for faculty and staff, President Bruce Shepard announced a new Spanish class program for faculty and staff. The program, run through Western Washington University’s Spanish department, started this past winter quarter.

Shepard said the classes are not offered only out of necessity for the Western’s future function, “but, rather, as a statement of our commitment to more diverse futures.”

In winter quarter 2013, about 90 faculty and staff took the class, taught by students in the Spanish department, with priority given to those who interact with students and the public most often. The program is funded by the President’s Office.

Andrew Blick, an E-learning specialist at Western, said the classes help promote diversity, communication across the campus and outreach to the community. Spanish-speaking students and families will be able to communicate more easily if there are Spanish-speaking employees to help them, he said.

“It also creates a bond between the staff and the students who teach the classes,” Blick said.

Two of the student facilitators, Ruthie Jablonsky and Rachel Pierce, taught the Monday/Wednesday classes at noon.

“We’re starting to see more of a need for Spanish here on campus,” Pierce said. “I think the staff and faculty will benefit from these classes.”

These classes not only help the staff and faculty taking them, but the students teaching them as well.

“My favorite part of this was learning how to teach, interact with adults and figure out the best way to create a good relationship with them,” Jablonsky said.

Blick said this program wouldn’t run without the student facilitators; they are the backbone of the program, he said.

The program has been well received and will continue this spring. Paul Dunn, senior executive assistant to the president, said that there has been ongoing conversation about continuing it into the summer, but nothing has been decided yet.

WWU faculty and staff play a Spanish bingo-style game as a vocabulary-building exercise at the weekly conversation hour in the Viking Union. The Friday conversations are in addition to the two hour-long classes that take place during the week. Photo by Ca