Two of three full-time Spanish professors at OCCC are native speakers. It is beneficial to have native speakers teach the courses because it is like having a first-hand experience learning the culture and language, said Ginnett Rollins, head of the Modern Language Program and a professor in the program.
Gina Villamizar and Sandra Herron joined the faculty in August. Villamizar is from Colombia and Herron is from Chile.
They are replacing Professor Dianne Broyles, who retired, and Professor Jorge Lopez Romero, who resigned to move closer to his family, Rollins said.
Herron said her classes encompass more than Spanish vocabulary.
“There is an interdisciplinary exchange in most of my classes that happens among Hispanic and Anglo students talking about cultural differences,” Herron said.
Rollins said that although she is not native to the Spanish language, she has dedicated herself to languages and teaching others to learn their beauty just as she did. She has her doctorate in Spanish with a minor of French from Texas Tech University.
In October Herron led an on-campus celebration of Dia De Los Muertos, the celebration of the dead. In Mexico, it is traditionally believed that the dead come back to visit their loved ones on Nov. 1.
Day of the Dead is one of the biggest holidays celebrated in Mexico and many other Hispanic countries, Herron said. Celebrations are becoming more common in areas of the U.S. with a large Hispanic population. Festivities often include traditional foods and visiting the graves of loved ones.
Herron teaches Spanish classes both on campus and online. Herron began teaching Spanish at a private Catholic school about 20 years ago, Rollins said. Then Herron taught at a college in Plano, Texas.
Herron said her favorite thing about teaching is her love for the language. Now she is excited about starting at OCCC, “where everything is new.”
“I love it that my Anglo students are learning with passion how to speak a foreign language, but also are learning the culture behind the language.”
Gina Villamizar received her master’s degree at the University of Arkansas. She is finishing her doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh.
Villamizar has been teaching for seven years, and said this is her first time to teach as a professor at a college.
“I felt really welcomed by my peers, faculty and staff,” Villamizar has said about her experience so far.
“I have enjoyed my classes and every single experience I’ve had here at OCCC.”