Pablo Oliva was honored by the December 2009 Monterey Institute graduates for excellence in teaching. Against the dramatic backdrop of the historic Golden State Theater, Oliva reflected on the path that led him to the Institute:
In the short time I have taught at MIIS, I can say that my teaching philosophy has changed profoundly.
I had returned to live in my native Argentina after having lived in North Carolina for a number of years. In 2006 I decided to come back to the US on very short notice to teach Spanish as part of the Summer Intensive Language Program at the Monterey Institute.
After just three days of teaching, I realized that the Institute was like few other places I had taught before and that I was facing a new kind of challenge. My students wanted to know from me how to run a business in Argentina; they asked me questions about arcane grammar rules in Spanish – what exactly is the future subjunctive and how do I use it? They wanted to not just learn the Spanish terms for the different stages a bill has to pass through before coming legislation: they wanted me to explain the process to them in Spanish. My students asked me about my views on the impact of the economic and financial crisis on the Argentina banking system and wanted to discuss in Spanish the US involvement in causing the crisis and finding global solutions!
He also credited the impact that his students have had on him, both personally and professionally:
I saw right away that my students’ needs and interests ranged far beyond what I had anticipated and knew I needed to rethink my pedagogical approach. I had brought from Argentina suitcases full of authentic materials which I had thought I could use to teach. However, after my first meetings with my students, I decided not even to open the suitcase. Instead, I emailed my family and professional contacts and asked them to send me new materials which I could use to meet the challenge.
Your curiosity, your probing questions and your healthy skepticism has made an impact on my life. Your research queries have taken me to different NGO’s in Argentina and other countries and opened unexpected new doors. They have allowed me to cultivate friendships and make discoveries even in my own family: one of those discoveries involved learning that a member of my own family was “disappeared” during the years under the military regime in my country.
Though you leave this beautiful town, you will always be connected to the MIIS community and to the friends you have made along the way who are heading for different parts of the world. You are taking with you the tools you came here to acquire; and are now equipped to bring about change yourselves.We will miss you but we will look for you in our email boxes, Twitter, Facebook, and so on!
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