March 29, 2018
#FacultyFriday: SUNY Empire Profesora Berta-Isabel Cuadrado Álvarez
From a countryside in Toledo, Spain – with an ocean and more than 3,500 miles between her and her students – SUNY Empire Profesora Berta-Isabel Cuadrado Álvarez comes inside from tending to her outdoor garden and settles in for the evening. There are hours yet before the class she is teaching begins at 10:30 p.m. She is kind enough to use the time to share her story with us.
Tell us about your students.
Most of my students are adult full-time workers who are mothers or fathers. Usually, my students have just arrived home from work and they are rushing to be on time for the oral class, and trying to concentrate so they can do their best. Some nights they attend with their children sitting on their laps. And at that hour, children are very tired and crying, sometimes.
I love listening to them, because it reminds me of when I was at the University. I often studied with my two children, one on each side of my lap, late into the evenings. I can imagine the efforts they are making to keep on going in the course and to be successful in it. I admire them a lot!
What challenges does teaching from Spain represent?
Usually, I do not have a lot technical problems, but this winter we – my students and I – experienced several power cuts, which delayed our oral sessions. The schedule can be a challenge for me as well. With the time difference, I begin oral sessions with students late in the evening, and some days I am not able to go to bed until about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. My TA, Cynthia Flax, is helping now with some of the students who cannot be online earlier. Her classes begin at midnight!
What advantages are there to teaching from abroad?
Well, I am living the Spanish life and culture. So I am completely updated about it and I am able to incorporate it into my classes. This is an enormous benefit to my students. Apart from that, I live in the countryside, with my five cats, surrounded by a garden and beautiful landscape. For me, this is perfect!
What brought you to SUNY Empire?
I had my resume posted. One day, during the fall of 2005, I received a call at my work office asking if I would be interested in teaching Spanish online. I said "Yes, I think so.” I was very surprised and happy. Some days later, I was interviewed and I got the job!
I have been teaching Spanish since 2006. First, I was in training for about four months. Then I started working as a TA and later, I developed the first course of my own – Spanish for Healthcare Workers. Now I am also teaching Advanced Spanish: Language and Culture.
Tell us about what you do, and why you do it.
At the beginning of each course, I revise it completely, to be sure everything is updated – my contact information, my TA, schedule, participants, etc. Before every course, I make changes to the presentations and materials, trying to adjust them more and more to the speaking needs of my students and also, for me not to get bored of teaching the same things in the same way.
When the course has started, at the beginning, there are always a lot of questions from students who are getting accustomed to how to do this or that. There are many written corrections to do in each course, as well as emails to answer, feedback and also to show presence in Outlook for students online, in case they need you.
What I love most is when you can see students get engaged in the course, from the middle of it. When they have started trusting you as a teacher. When you have gained their hearts with your feedback, or answering their questions during the sessions.