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Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009

Rogelia Lily Ibarra

The Lieber Memorial Teaching Associate Award

Doctoral Student in Hispanic Literature
Department of Spanish and Portuguese
College of Arts and Sciences
Indiana University Bloomington
B.A., Knox College, 2001
M.A., Indiana University, 2003

Associate Instructor Lily Ibarra walks into her classroom every day with a smile on her face and a peppy "Hey, chicos" to her students. These gestures set the tone for the class -- personal, yet professional.

"I have learned to use my personal experience as a bridge to guide my students in understanding that language is not just a set of rules in a textbook, but instead a path to gaining insight into a culture and its community," said Ibarra.

Rogelia Lily Ibarra

Rogelia Lily Ibarra

Print-Quality Photo

Connecting her students to culture outside of a textbook is an integral part of Ibarra's teaching philosophy. With the help of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Community Outreach and Partnerships in Service-Learning, and "Mujeres en Conexión" (Women in Connection), Ibarra organized a service component for her second-year Spanish class. The students volunteered their time to help bilingual children of IU staff and employees, and the Bloomington community with their language skills in a Spanish kids camp.

And while teaching high school literature in León, Spain, with the IU Honors Program, she encouraged interaction with the assigned stories by having students ask their host families for cultural expressions similar to the ones used in the books.

"She put an extraordinary amount of energy into designing useful critical-thinking activities that went beyond standard reading comprehension checks," said Nicholas Henriksen, associate instructor and Ph.D. student in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and Department of Linguistics. "Many students commented that Lily's effective teaching style enabled them to view literature in a way unknown to them, and that their perspective on the language and culture that surrounded them had changed thanks to her."

Jim Lynch, Ph.D. candidate and visiting lecturer in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, agreed.

"Lily has the remarkable ability to engage her students in each and every class session, tapping into a reserve of curiosity that some students did not even realize they had. Her classroom is dynamic, and she is always experimenting with new ways to help her students internalize information, be it through games and activities, new media, guest speakers, authentic conversations or service projects." These observations from colleagues and administrators have earned Ibarra several teaching awards from IU, including the Department of Spanish and Portuguese's Outstanding Associate Instructor Award for the 2006-2007 year, as well as a Certificate of Distinguished Teaching in the fall of 2002. Ibarra is also a distinguished student. She received two dissertation-writing fellowships during the 2006-07 academic year.

Ibarra's effort to keep the classroom fun, yet educational, is especially appreciated by her students, who consistently give her high marks on their student evaluation forms. "My instructor Lily has been my favorite instructor in the Spanish department," one student wrote." Not only is class fun and upbeat, but she makes it very comfortable and is always concerned if we understand."

Another student said she rarely awards instructors high marks, but that Ibarra earned them. "The instructor did an excellent job of tailoring the class to the actual needs of grad students without nit-picky memorization that would be quickly lost. The assignments were helpful, and I learned exactly what I needed to know."

Outside of the classroom, Ibarra works to help educate the Bloomington community on Latino culture. She has hosted events at Bloomington High School South, such as a demonstration on making Mexican tamales, as well as a weekly discussion group for students in Spanish classes. She also has presented on the bilingual experience at a St. Paul's Catholic Center class and co-founded a graduate student conference on Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics, Literature and Culture.

Carl Good, assistant professor of Spanish at IU Bloomington, said Ibarra is exceptional at what she does. "The mark of a truly dedicated and gifted instructor, I believe, is seen in this kind of evidence of a teaching passion that goes beyond the requirements of one's job and expresses itself in an array of informal, voluntary, contexts of pedagogical sharing."