My CUTF: Happy Turkey Day, everybody!

In the spirit of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, I would like to express gratitude for this fellowship experience.

Thanksgiving is unequivocally my favorite holiday. Beyond watching my Detroit Lions lose, I also get the opportunity to give back and appreciate what I’ve been given. With this being my final blog post for this semester, it’s a perfect time to express my appreciation for the Fall 2021 Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship.

All in all, this semester has been an incredible experience. With the class being 19 students total, myself and the professor included, we’ve become a close knit group. I truly feel that every student is very comfortable participating. I also feel like each and every student has grown tremendously in their handling of the language, in addition to growing from a medical vocabulary standpoint. Having done numerous class discussions, small group activities, health campaigns, presentations, and class games, they’ve been able to practice what they’ve learned in a myriad of different ways. In an odd semester being back in person for the first time in almost two years, I really feel like we were able to provide each student with a fun. engaging, meaningful experience. Lastly, I am grateful for the personal growth I’ve been able to achieve via the fellowship.  

Over these last couple of months, my understanding of teaching has evolved. The semester presented various challenges. First, this Medical Spanish course is a night class taking place from 6-7:15pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, many of the students were understandably feeling fatigued at this point in the day. Additionally, all of the students in the course are pursuing careers in the STEM field, resulting in a challenging course load. Lastly, since we are all observing COVID precautions, anytime a student felt even remotely sick they missed class and got tested out of an abundance of caution. My big takeaway was the following: there is nothing more important than understanding the group of people that you work with. This is something that Professor Garzón emphasized throughout the semester, constantly asking for constructive feedback while asking the class for feedback about themselves. Additionally, he asked me for my own input and constantly aimed to accurately assess the condition of the class. 

The goal never wavered: move the class forward at the right pace. If it was Thursday in the middle of midterms, maybe it was time for a class game. If the class needs to be pushed, maybe we do a group activity requiring a high understanding of that day’s material. If the class needed time to work on the group project, we worked efficiently to answer any questions they had and drive their projects forward. 

Without a doubt, the most valuable part of the CUTF experience has been the perspective it has provided me. Sometimes it can be hard to place yourself in someone’s shoes until you’re actually in them. Being able to help instruct this course showed me the higher level of preparation and work required to successfully guide students through course material. Additionally, it was very odd not being a student, but rather an instructor. Many of the students are people that I’ve taken classes with prior. Being on the other side allowed me to see certain patterns that I didn’t before. For example, I felt like I was better able to understand which students were struggling and would go work with them that day to try and provide help where I could. 

Going forward, my use of medical Spanish will only continue to grow. I plan on continuing to work at the SALUD Free Clinic as a Spanish-English translator for underserved patients. Additionally, I will be teaching medical Spanish to AmeriCorps volunteers via a paid position this coming Spring. Lastly, with medical school beginning in August, I will continue to have opportunities to work with Spanish-speaking populations in Pittsburgh. 

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