Gina Villamizar, a full-time Spanish professor from Colombia in South America, is now teaching Spanish classes at OCCC. She took the position in the summer, due to the retirement of another professor, Dianne Broyles. Villamizar said she came to teach at OCCC because she saw an ad for the position in the higheredjobs website and decided “why not.”
Ginnett Rollins, program director and professor of modern languages, said she is pleased to have Villamizar join the faculty.
“She was the best candidate, had the best credentials, and most importantly had the best teaching presentation,” Rollins said.
Villamizar had recently completed her master’s degree at the University of Arkansas. Her major was Hispanic languages and literature.
This fall semester has been Villamizar’s first semester teaching at OCCC. For the first eight weeks, she taught an online course for Spanish. This was something different from what Villamizar had done in previous years.
Villamizar said she enjoyed teaching her online classes but prefers having face-to-face relationships with students.
In October Villamizar started teaching Conversational Spanish in an actual classroom.
“I had a good experience teaching both online and on site, but I definitely prefer teaching here on campus, having direct contact with students and interacting with them weekly,” Villamizar said.
“Teaching a language is like teaching a culture,” Villamizar said. “Me, I am a culture.”
Villamizar was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia. She grew up in an academic family with her mother, an accounting professor, and her father, an engineer and a math professor. She has an older sister and younger brother who are both engineers.
Villamizar describes her parents as a hardworking couple.
Villamizar cited her mother as an important influence in her life.
“My mother comes from a poor background,” Villamizar said. “She left a small town because she felt she didn’t belong there, to come to Barranquilla. Barranquilla was a new beginning for her.”
Villamizar’s mother, being a poor town girl, worked hard in order to become the accounting professor she is today. This is something that inspires Villamizar during her toughest times.
“My mother always had moral and economic support for us,” Villamizar said.
Since Villamizar was raised by two professors, this made her want to become a professor.
“I grew up with this,” she said. However, Villamizar would take a different route from engineering and accounting.
She decided she wanted to teach English and started teaching at age 18 to high school students in Colombia.
Later her focus shifted to Spanish after teaching at the Centro Cultural Colombo Americano, an institute that teaches about Colombian and American cultures. She taught there for a year after receiving her bachelor’s degree in modern languages in Barranquilla.
It was then that she decided to attend the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville, to obtain a master’s degree.
After earning her degree, one of her professors from the University of Arkansas recommended her to attend the University of Pittsburgh; where she is now working toward her doctorate.
Rollins said Villamizar is close to her family and stays in touch with them.
“She is such a good person,” Rollins said.
Villamizar said Rollins has been a “great aid, mentor, and friend.”
“My adaptation has been smooth because of her daily and constant help and concern,” Villamizar said. “I am really happy to work with her.”