By Sarah Feliciano
Chesla Ann Bohinski is quickly making her mark at Harpur College: The professor, who has a passion for Spanish and education, is working to update the Romance Languages and Literatures Department and assisting in the emergence of several new programs.
Bohinski serves as coordinator for an ongoing research experiment, which she calls the "pilot program." She instructs hybrid courses in Elementary Spanish I & II, as well as Intermediate Spanish I & II.
"In the five-hour hybrid classes, students spend two hours online and have three hours face-to-face," Bohinski says. "In the three-hour hybrid, students spend one hour online and have two hours face-to-face."
Thus far, the results of the pilot classes have been positive, she says.
"When the sequence is completed in Fall 2013, the program will be revisited and a decision will be made if it should stay and spread to French and Italian as well."
In addition to her position as pilot program coordinator, Bohinski is also the supervisor of Romance Languages' lower-level language program. Valuing consistency, she has ensured that all of the language courses share a common syllabus. In an effort to diminish discrepancies in grading, each language course now requires the same amount of compositions and an oral exam.
As if there wasn't enough on her plate, Bohinski will also lead a conference on Teaching Pedagogy this fall. It will be offered to high school teachers and undergraduate Spanish and French majors.
"We'll be inviting them to learn more about language and the best ways to teach language," she says. "It's like a community outreach to help other teachers become better language instructors. We will focus on the tools that make a language instructor effective. Teachers will be able to share their ideas about what's working in the classroom and what isn't. They will also meet others in the field and be able to collaborate."
Teaching a second language today is much different than it was years ago, Bohinski says.
"Years ago, teachers would repeat a verb conjugation. It's not effective," she says. "You need to stay ahead of the curve because if you didn't it would be a disservice to your students."
Bohinski also is collaborating with Harpur College and the Graduate School of Education to offer the Master of Arts in Teaching in French or Spanish Adolescence Education, as well as the Combined BA and MAT (3+2) Program. In those five years, students would also be certified and engage in student teaching during their final semester of the program. Bohinski will teach graduate courses in Spring 2014, including Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations in the Pedagogy of Romance and Curriculum and Teaching in (French or Spanish).
Antonio Sobejano-Moran, chair of Romance Languages and Literatures, says Bohinski's contributions "have been exceptional at every level."
"Hiring Chesla was one key to implement our MAT program," he says. "Once this program was approved we needed to hire someone with the qualifications and skills to work in our department of Romance Languages and in collaboration with the (Graduate) School of Education. She is essential, therefore to the implementation of this program. Also, we needed someone to offer courses on teaching methodology and she can do that."
Bohinski's future plans are as ambitious as her current projects.
"I want to continue presenting my research at conferences as well as publish my research so that others can learn more about second language vocabulary acquisition and apply it in their classrooms," she says. "Based on my experience and research, I would also like to publish a textbook that will better help students learn languages in a high school or a university setting. I hope to teach a Spanish phonetics course in the near future."
Bohinski's passion to improve teaching methods stems from her own desire to self-improve, she says.
"I started learning Spanish in the eighth grade," she says. "Learning another language besides English was always challenging. When I learned new words and concepts, there were always more to learn. Still to this day, I strive to constantly improve my language skills. There is always something new that you can learn."
Last Updated: 6/3/15