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Bahtchevanova says that she recognizes that it is not grades or requirements that best motivate students to excel in language and cultural learning, but rather a teacher’s preparation, creativity and enthusiasm. The objective of her classes is to connect the material to her students’ interests, passions and goals. Providing students with cultural context through their own experiences not only motivates them to learn a language more effectively, but also illustrates for them how language learning, and the cultural awareness that comes with it, will help them in the professional world.
“Cultural awareness is central when professionals interact with people from other cultures because people see, interpret and evaluate things in many different ways," Bahtchevanova says. "Students in our courses develop the ability to stand back from their own culture and be aware of how their own values, beliefs and perceptions are informing their professional work. Developing cultural awareness is an important component of any professional training.”
Research shows that learning another language and culture has a positive long-term impact on a student’s academic, professional and personal life. In addition, a new language opens the door to exciting and enriching new experiences in literature, film, art, music, science, philosophy and communications. It helps people develop new perspectives of the world and more profound insight into their own language and culture, as well as into the human condition in general.
“The study of language is one of the most valuable learning experiences a student can have at a university,” says School of International Letters and Cultures director, Joe Cutter. “(At ASU) we deliver a very high-quality education in languages and literatures and cultures - as good as you can get anywhere in the country.”
Students in the School of International Letters and Cultures are provided with a variety of educational experiences that prepare them for life and citizenship in the modern world. In addition to attending courses taught by world-class faculty in both ancient and modern languages and cultures, students are exposed to a wide variety of world languages and cultures via study abroad programs, full-year or semester-long language and cultural immersion programs, on-campus international guest speakers, international student organizations, opportunities for intensive study through language flagship programs and mentorship by international faculty.
“Language learning is a continuous journey, most of which happens outside of the classroom,” Bahtchevanova says. “I want my students to feel inspired and responsible for their own learning, especially when the course is over and they have to continue learning on their own.”
Many of Bahtchevanova’s former students have been inspired by her to continue studying language and culture, earning master’s degrees in French, international relations, and doctorate and professional degrees in other fields. One of her former students is currently teaching French at a Chinese university and another at a university in Romania. “Their success and happiness is the most rewarding experience for me as a teacher,” Bahtchevanova says.
“Mariana is a gem!” says Regents’ Professor Elly van Gelderen. “She is a truly amazing teacher who inspires and excites her students about crucial foundational concepts in language and who elegantly adds current sophisticated theoretical issues. There aren't enough adjectives to describe her; she is smart, bubbling with enthusiasm, and extremely hard-working and committed to the success of her students.”
Bahtchevanova received the "2012-2013 Outstanding Foreign Language Teacher at the Post-Secondary Level" award at this year’s Arizona Language Association (AZLA) conference.
AZLA serves the profession by providing a structure through which language educators in Arizona can share training, ideas, research and concerns. The organization’s primary goals include promotion of foreign language study, development of quality education programs from early childhood through post-secondary, and teacher preparation.
In addition to Bahtchevanova's honor, AZLA's "2013 Outstanding Young Educator" award went to Samantha E. Petree of Sedona Red Rock High School. "2012 Teacher of the Year" went to Carmen King de Ramírez of ASU. "2013 Service Award" went to Dolores Durán-Cerda of Pima Community College, Tuscon. "2012 Best of Arizona" award went to ASU School of International Letters and Cultures "Hispanidades" project, which is headed by Andrew Ross, Vanessa Fonseca, Vanessa Elias, and Melissa Negrón-Medina.
Student scholarship awards were presented to Sally Barnes, NAU, Rachel Davidosn, Desert Mountain High School, Evelyn Sánchez, Tucson High Magnet School, and Taylor Kristen Lucan, Desert Ridge High School.
Bahtchevanova says that receiving this prestigious award motivates her to work even harder to deliver a high-quality and marketable language and cultural awareness education to her students.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to work and collaborate with so many wonderful people who love languages as much as I do,” Bahtchevanova says. “I couldn’t have won the award without the support of my colleagues from the School of International Letters and Cultures, especially my colleagues in French.”
The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Written by Daniel Lennie, communications intern, School of International Letters and Cultures.