Joined USJ: 1985
Language is Personal
“Learning a language is a very human pursuit,” explains Wayne Steely. It is very personal. The use of technology depends on the instructor. If all we do is let the technology teach, we’re doomed to failure. If used wisely and creatively, technology can enhance the classroom experience.” Selective use of videos and providing links as additional resources can be helpful. “You can’t get tied to the technology. It can be a great tool, or a hindrance,” he points out, noting that USJ faculty has been using attributes of the “flipped classroom,” where students play an active role in learning rather than merely sit and listen to lectures, for quite some time.
A More Authentic Curriculum
Now in his fourth year as Dean, having previously taught every Spanish language course offered at USJ, Steely has the opportunity to support faculty in their professional pursuits, take the lead in longer term plans for the School, and be a sounding board for students looking to connect to the broader world. While admittedly missing the “rush of accomplishment” of working directly with students in the classroom, Steely is able to have a broader impact, benefiting students and faculty.
The latest example: a revised curriculum set to be introduced next year, having earned state approval, which more fully integrates modern culture of Spanish-speaking countries into language instruction. It is knowledge that can benefit USJ students in an increasingly interconnected world. The curriculum – which also strongly encourages students to study abroad – is “more profound and authentic” in its presentation of language and modern culture, Steely says.
See It, Taste It, Learn It
Is there anything from outside the classroom that Steely brings to his work? Yes - an enjoyment of cooking, especially baking bread. “You cannot teach language without doing a lot about food,” he explains. “You do tend to bring your interests into the classroom. It’s what a good teacher does.” That is also true of his strong interest in history. Steely has managed throughout his career to pique students’ interest in 16th century cultures, not an easy sell at first. “I would design readings and conversation around the conquest era in Mexico, featuring family, art, music, and religion in the Spanish-speaking world. It became a “very visual class,” and “students could relate it to their daily lives – which surprised them.”
Ph.D., University of Connecticut
M.A., University of Connecticut
B.A., Drew University