DOBSON — Surry Community College is recruiting students for a Community Spanish class in the spring and its instructor is confident it will be a class focused on conversation and not perfection.
According to Instructor Dave Caswell, the overall goal of the Community Spanish class is to prepare English-speaking people to speak and understand small amounts of general and basic Spanish found in most routine interchanges in daily life. He said additionally, the class will provide basic cultural information about Spanish-speaking groups in the hope of informing and educating English-speakers about unique aspects of Latino culture.
Caswell said he has crafted the class so it mixes fun and functional, practical knowledge of the language in a way where participants can quickly grasp the basics at first for quick use and says the second half of the course can be customized to meet the specific needs of students in specialized areas.
“You think about the commitment going into a course like this and think about if it will be worth your time,” said Caswell who also teaches at the Stokes Early College High School of Design. “You get energized in the class. Learning can be energizing.”
He said he grew up with his mother, Violet, speaking Slovak to other members of the family and attributes this to him developing his ear for another language.
“When a chance to take an elective (class) was offered to me in the fifth grade, I was told I could choose band or a foreign language. My choices were French or Spanish,” Caswell said. “I think back on this and remember how my best friend chose band and his career has been in music and mine is in language. We both basically made life direction choices in the fourth grade.”
Caswell continued in Spanish through the rest of elementary school, and high school, pausing his sophomore year but picked it back up his junior year. He said in college he chose to major in education and continuing to concentrate on Spanish.
“I reached a point where I had my certification and realized I would be teaching 25 kids in a classroom, three of which might continue to use the language,” said Caswell. “I wanted to do something with more impact.”
After graduating, he began working at the Illinois Migrant Council teaching English to migrants who wanted to enter the jobs stream and get jobs in the big cities. After earning his Master’s Degree, Caswell continued with teaching at Northwestern University.
As he advanced to different teaching assignments he began the process of developing a practical, basic curriculum on what he found worked best for students who wanted to really use their language skills. His big chance came later when a fellow instructor left the language class curriculum project to help on-line classes. The curriculum was now his project for the school system. He later moved to Florida with his wife, Barbara and taught Community Spanish for several years. Caswell taught for more than 15 years in the public high schools and worked with other teachers writing curriculum as well.
“I wanted to make this course practical right away,” said Caswell. “I want it to be something you can use the next day after class. The beauty is once students get through the basics we can spend the second phase of the course tweaking it in their direction for their specific area such as real estate or law enforcement. This has benefits for a wide range of areas.”
He said his approach is designed to get students past a fear of speaking another language and have fun learning to use it.
“Some of the class will have no doubt have had a bad first time experience or a frustrating experience trying to speak Spanish but I’ve never met a student who couldn’t do this,” said Caswell. ” It’s a skill that can be acquired. You get what you need, practice it in class and speaking it perfectly comes second. We will have a good time laughing and learning together. Students will be gaining cultural understanding which can be immediately applied to situations they’re in or are put in or might be placed in.”
Community Spanish will begin Feb. 4 and end March 18, meeting on Tuesday and Thursday nights, from 6 to 8 p.m. The class will meet on the Dobson campus, Sells building, Room 114. Tuition is $71. If interested, please call Sonnie Hardy at (336) 386-3229.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on Twitter at MtAiryNewsDave.