July 6, 2006

Daniel Chaney: Bridging the language gap

Professor Daniel Chaney

"I long ago gave up any hope of ever being able to really teach my students Spanish," says Daniel Chaney, professor of Modern Languages and one of this year's Distinguished Teachers. "I realized the most and best I can do is inspire that love of the language which brought me to where I am and then provide a logical and sequential path for my students to follow in their own personal learning experience."

His love of the language can be traced to the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a Spanish and education major and earned his master's degree. After college, this Romance language led him to Spain, where he worked and lived for several years. It also led to his own romance with his Spanish wife.

Daniel believes the best way to truly learn a language is to go abroad. He says some students never seem to learn a foreign language in the classroom and need the daily immersion to fully grasp the language's concepts. "Even if you're a good student and know the grammar, immersing yourself in the language and culture pushes you up a level. It also broadens your horizons," says Daniel.

That's why he's such a proponent of the study abroad program he coordinates to Cuernavaca, Mexico, a city 50 miles south of Mexico City surrounded by ravines, tropical vegetation and waterfalls. He's directed the program for seven years and while he normally accompanies his students on their trip, Eleanor Opitz, adjunct faculty in Modern Languages, will journey there this year in his place while Daniel serves as acting chair of the Modern Languages for summer quarter during Garry Fourman's sabbatical.

This summer will be the program's ninth year of immersing students in the Mexican way of life. Eleanor will accompany the program's largest group, nine students, as they settle in with local Mexican families and begin studying at the Cemanahuac Language School for four hours daily. He says the course is open to any student, even if they have never studied the language, as coursework is geared to individual skill levels. However, to truly immerse the students in the culture and language, each host family is paid to only speak in Spanish.

When he travels to Mexico, during the first week, Daniel helps his students adjust to a new place and a new culture and takes them on a few excursions. For a rural perspective, they visit Buenavista de Cuéllar, a quaint town nestled in forest-covered mountains about an hour and a half south of Cuernavaca.

Their second outing is to Taxco, a colonial city also located an hour and a half from Cuernavaca. The city is know for its rich silver mines and industry and is the number one shopping stop for foreigners visiting Mexico.

Daniel leaves after the students' first week of immersion and continues to monitor and advise his students from home via e-mail.

The study abroad program has "consistently provided life-changing experiences for these students who spend two to four weeks in Mexico," says Daniel.

When not indulging in Mexican life, this 16-year Columbus State veteran and two-time Distinguished Teacher--he earned his first award during the 1992-1993 academic year--is back in Columbus guiding his students through Spanish 101, 102, 103, 104 and 105.

Daniel says, "My general goal in my classes is to build a bridge that will facilitate students' passage from mere mechanical manipulation of the language to real communications." The blueprints for his "bridge" are his complete and informative syllabi. "I believe from the first day of a course a student should be able to see where he or she is going, how he or she is going to get there and what his or her responsibilities are in this process," he continues.

His students praise Professor Chaney for his clear, easy-to-remember explanations that answer not only what the proper vocabulary is for a particular situation, for instance, but also why they should use certain words or sentence structures.

What makes a difference in his classrooms is that he doesn't cover what's in the textbook page by page, but reorganizes the information and links it to the text. Frequent assessments of skills are also an important part of his classes. He hands out packets of materials that include self checks, which he also uses in class by having one student serve as the teacher asking questions of another student before the roles are reversed. "Self checks allow students to do meaningful group work, as well as be their own tutor at home," says Daniel.

In his Spanish 103 class, he uses journaling as a form of self assessment. His students have said, "The journals are challenging," and "were most beneficial because we had to think, but were allowed to make mistakes."

In Daniel's eyes, class is where you're supposed to make mistakes. He says he's not a native Spanish speaker and like his students learned through trial and error. He likes to underscore the cultural aspects of the language by explaining cultural subtleties, as well as sharing examples of real life situations from living and working in Spain

"He is challenging, knows the language very well, tells funny stories, and wants you to learn," says one of his students.

"I like to tell my students about my first trip to Spain. When I was a student on a four week long program in Madrid, we went to a restaurant that had everything sitting out on the table including wine," says Daniel. "At the time I didn't drink and I was too shy to ask for water. Needless to say, I died of thirst that evening."

Even the last time he went to France, he says he was so nervous he literally heard his knees knocking--which he didn't know was possible--when he had to ask for directions in French.

"He puts a lot of effort into his teaching. He clearly explains ideas and concepts and has many useful handouts and worksheets," says another student.

The handouts in his Spanish 104 class include a textbook he wrote several years ago, supplemented by his original "Puerta" CD. "Puerta," designed around a Spanish festival that takes place yearly in Valencia, Spain, incorporates "hear say" where student's hear his native speaking wife or colleague Luis Latoja say a Spanish word or phrase and then the student repeats it. The CD also provides students the ability to tape their own voice or to click on a snail icon to hear Daniel sound out the words syllable by syllable.

Daniel is the only professor to teach Spanish 105, and he says it proves to be challenging as each time he teaches the course he has to come up with new curriculum and a new syllabus. Designing the course for students wanting more immersion in the Spanish language and culture, he changes the content of the course each quarter. Over the years, the class has read Spanish plays and novels, conversed about articles from the Spanish version of "Reader's Digest," discussed Spanish movies or radio broadcasts, watched a sitcom from Spain, and read an online Spanish version of the BBC news. Because the material is new each quarter, some students have continued taking the course throughout the 13 quarters that Daniel has taught it.

So what does this Distinguished Teacher do when not at Columbus State? He wants to get back to painting, enjoyed watching his daughter Sofia graduate from Wright State University last month, and while he says he's about as un-athletic as they come, he enjoys throwing baseballs with his 10-year-old son Christian.

He also enjoys reading and listening to books on tape and once studied Romanian by reading the New Testament in Romanian. He says it was "language with training wheels," as he learned the language by rereading a book he already read.


Van Horn receives grant to teach nutrition to low income families

Jan Van Horn

Jan Van Horn, instructor in Hospitality Management, received the 2006 Teaching Grant from the Ohio Association of Two-Year Colleges (OATYC) to support her nutrition research involving children in low income families.

The $1,500 grant will allow Van Horn to involve second-year Dietetic Technician students in planning and providing a series of nutrition education sessions encouraging healthy eating choices for low income children ages 3-5 who attend a local daycare. The goal of her project is to improve food choices in families.

The award was made available to any two-year college professor, full- or part-time, who is member of OATYC or whose institution is a member of OATYC. The Board of Directors of OATYC appointed a scholarship committee to review applications and agreed that Van Horn's proposal was "the best at enhancing teaching and learning in the classroom."

OATYC fosters cooperation and communication among Ohio's institutions of higher education, and provides the viewpoint of the state-assisted two-year campuses to the Ohio Board of Regents and to the State Legislature.


Val's Book Club to read "The Art of Possibility"

If you're looking for an inspirational summer read that can expand your creativity and help you see the world in a new way, join your colleagues to read and discuss "The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life."

Written by psychotherapist and painter Rosamund Stone Zander and Boston Philharmonic Conductor Benjamin Zander, the book attempts to help the reader approach their work and their life with the talents of a skilled artist. It provides a set of practices designed to "initiate a new approach to current conditions, based on uncommon assumptions about the nature of the world."

"It's a great book for those of us who work at a community college, because it helps show you how you can help others discover and become who they want to be," says President Val Moeller. "It's very upbeat, and it speaks to teachers, counselors, administrators and a lot of functions we have at the college."

The club is limited to the first 25 employees to sign up. Institutional Advancement provides free copies of the book to all participants, who will meet to discuss the book with Dr. Moeller Thursday, August 31 in the Center for Workforce Development, room 415.

If you'd like to participate, contact Vickie Hunter in Institutional Advancement at vhunter@cscc.edu or ext. 2412.


Columbus Campus Planning Committee seeks feedback

The Columbus Campus Planning Committee is completing its work and would like to review its recommendations with campus before the recommendations are finalized.

Everyone is welcome to attend a campus forum on Thursday, July 13 at 1:30 p.m. in Union Hall Room 137 to discuss the committee's recommendations.

To review the draft recommendations and other information relative to the committee's work, including the charter that guided the work, see the committee's Web page at http://intranet/ccc/index.htm.


Wellness initiative discusses weight loss

The Women's Health Initiative will host its second seminar, Healthy Weight Loss, on Tuesday, July 11, at noon in Delaware Hall, Room 029. Everyone is welcome to bring a friend, enjoy the presentation by Sarah Graff, register to win a prize, and receive five wellness credits.

For more information, call Don Laubenthal at ext 3627.


ITI offers seminar on effective online assessment and time management

The Instructional Technologies Institute is hosting a Best Practices--Effective Assessment and Time Management in Online Courses seminar at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 12, in Davidson Hall 241.

Ann Palazzo, assistant professor in Communication Skills, will present different strategies designed to save time for online instructors, particularly with regard to assessment. During the seminar, participants will discuss how to improve classroom activities without increasing the already significant amount of time they invest in online teaching.

To prepare for the seminar, participants are asked to bring one time-saving tip they use in their online courses or one activity that they would like to assess more effectively.

To register for the seminar, course number TWT300, go to: http://www.cscc.edu/cscctraining/registrationForm.asp?idKey=723&CID=146.