After many years, I decided it was “la hora a aprender Español!” I took a one-month leave from my job with the State of Oregon in July 2010, to study Spanish with Jessica Dover of the Castaliga Language Center in downtown Portland.

Geoff Wood '13, Nina DeConcini '85, and Spanish Teacher Jessica Dover

Geoff Wood '13, Nina DeConcini '85, and Spanish Teacher Jessica Dover

I graduated in 1985 from CC with a degree in religion. I enjoyed studying languages on the Block Plan immensely and deeply regret not learning Spanish while in college. This was the impetus for creating my own “block” experience, 25 years after graduating.

I had to find a teacher who would understand the commitment, intensity, and rigor of a CC block. Here’s how I knew Jessica could help me “realizar mi meta.” When I first met her, she asked me, “What do you want to do with your Spanish?” I told her that I wanted to be to be able to give a simple pollution prevention talk in Spanish at some point. Without hesitation, she replied, “Great, that will be your final exam.” I’m not kidding.

Here’s a typical day: 2 hours of class, with homework and weekly tests including reading a “teen lit” Isabel AIlende book (that I’m still reading!), newspaper articles, BBC Mundo video clips, vocabulary and writing exercises, watching Spanish language movies, and my guilty pleasure, listening to 93.1 FM or, as el hombre dice en la radio, “noventa y tres, punto uno, El Rrrrrrrrey.” Jessica and I made flan at her house at the end of my “block,” just like I would have at CC.

In fairness, I have a base in Italian and French. However, I felt EXACTLY like I did at CC 25 years ago in my first year Italian classes. My neighbor, Geoff Wood ’13, was home for the summer and also tutored me.

I did ultimately write a “discurso” on pollution prevention entitled, “Cómo proteger el medio ambiente en su propia casa,” that described six areas at home where people can make a difference for the environment. I presented it, in Spanish, to a small audience at the end of July.

I am admittedly a motivated person. I had a goal and I was willing to work hard. Sin embargo, the most important reason I was successful is because Jessica approached her teaching in a way that removed all fear and doubt that I could do it. This is the most important quality in a teacher.

I now speak Spanish with anyone, including: both of my parents, my checker at Trader Joe’s, the staff at the nursing home where I volunteer with my kids, on the bus, at work, with inmates at the prison where I teach yoga, farmers market vendors, and with many others. I love speaking Italian, but I can speak Spanish cada día in Oregon!!!