The Department of World Language and Culture Studies is proud to announce that our very own Tracy Dinesen, Associate Professor of Spanish and Director of General Education here at Simpson College, is the recipient of the 2015 Faculty Award for Exemplary Teaching.
Professor Tracy Dinesen shows off her award
Professor Dinesen sat down with us to talk a bit about Simpson College, teaching, and life.
Professor Dinesen, tell us a little bit about your career before coming to Simpson.
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Colorado at Boulder where I majored in Spanish Language and Literature. I then did my master’s at the University of North Texas in Denton and continued with my Ph.D. at Texas Tech University.
While at Texas Tech I worked on a research grant to incorporate online tools in the lower-level Spanish sequence in order to better meet demand. I also worked at the Texas Tech Center in Seville, Spain where I taught all levels of language prior to coming to Simpson College.
What was it like for you when you started teaching at Simpson? What was the biggest adjustment?
I think that my biggest adjustment was moving from a research institution mentality to a small college one. I had never experienced life at a small college, and while it was what I wanted, I needed to learn how to communicate my expectations to students in a supportive way and give them my reasoning so that they could understand what we were doing on a deeper level. I worked really hard to improve my communication with my students, to help them understand what skills we are working on, and letting them know that I am here to support them along the way.
How do you think you have grown as a professor since starting at Simpson?
I am a completely different teacher than I was when I started at Simpson. I think that I am better at communicating with my students in all aspects. I can create a challenging course where students are asked to take risks and do things that they have never done before and still provide them with an environment that focuses on learning, improvement, and growth rather than perfection and getting a good grade.
I understand how to scaffold my course and focus on skill development and cultural knowledge in addition to improving language acquisition. I am much better at helping students see how the skills that they learn in my courses and the knowledge they gain is transferable to other fields of study.
I think that teaching is a field of study where there is always something to learn. I look forward to seeing what kind of teacher I am in another decade at Simpson.
What is your favorite course to teach here? What course would you love to introduce in the future?
I have many courses that I love to teach. I love teaching the Advanced Composition and Creative Writing course. I also love teaching Film in Spanish, Social Movements in Culture, Media and Culture, and Topics in Spanish Literature, among others. Generally I enjoy teaching courses that encourage creativity, deep thinking, and advocacy in addition to Spanish language skills.
A course that I would love to introduce in the future… I am working on a course that focuses on Historical Memory in popular culture. We will study art, film, and literature in Spain and Argentina to gain a deeper understanding of the impact of civil war and dictatorship. It isn’t the most uplifting topic, but it the works being produced currently are really innovative and thought provoking.
If you could give one piece of advice to new World Language and Culture professors, and even just new professors in general, what would it be?
That is a good question. I would say to remember that you don’t have to know everything or be an expert. Give yourself permission to not know, and then use that as an opportunity to teach your students how to find the information. They will respect you for it, it will teach them how to find answers to their questions, and it will encourage you to keep learning as well.
Meet your students where they are and help them reach for the next level while providing them with the support that they need. If you can do that, you will have the impact you are hoping for.
Finally, keep learning and feeding your passions. If you can remember what you personally love about your field, that will help you in more ways that you can imagine.
Thanks for your time, Professor Dinesen, and congratulations again!