Raquel Castro Salas Recognized as Exceptional Educator in Service Learning

Raquel Castro Salas
Shalini Rana

Raquel Castro Salas

This academic year, the Service Learning Initiative continues its spotlight on exceptional instruction in service learning. This month we feature professor Raquel Castro Salas, teaching assistant professor of Spanish, in the Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures.

Castro Salas has taught four service learning classes—the Biliteracy Project (SPAN 4563), Business Spanish (SPAN 4333), Translation and Interpretation (SPAN 3883) and Spanish for Health (SPAN 4583). Through these classes, she and her students partner with Springdale School District, Community Clinic, Apple Seeds NWA and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

When asked about what the highlights of her classes are for community partners, Castro Salas shared that "our partners get the opportunity to serve their community better by partnering with bilingual university students. Some areas that have benefited relate to better access to important materials and documents in Spanish and access to a literacy enrichment program for Spanish Heritage Learners, focusing on language maintenance and college readiness."

Regarding benefits for her students, she mentioned that "our university students get to work in the community in meaningful ways using their linguistic skills and other knowledge that we acquire in our regular classes. These meaningful services help the student absorb and internalize the knowledge better, as they see the importance of what they are learning in their real lives and the impact their studies have not only on their own lives, but also on the lives of others within their community."

For Castro Salas, the most gratifying part of teaching service learning is seeing her students' interest and commitment to serving their communities. She has experienced the real ways her students realize the relevance of their coursework when they are working with community partners. This experience also helps them easily absorb and learn topics that are covered in class.

COVID-19 did impact her Spanish service learning classes, however. According to Castro Salas, the pandemic made her pause the Sin Limites afterschool program, since her classes could not visit the schools. She added that "we still work with some schools via Zoom, helping in Parent Teacher Conferences and other events. Also, we have been translating documents for several partners. Last year our courses were remote and thus the experience changed a bit. The opportunities to serve with our community have been more limited this year (and last year)."

Despite these limitations, Castro Salas believes "these courses greatly benefit from the service learning component because they are focused on Spanish for the professions. My students get exposed to real experiences using the language they are learning and the skills they are obtaining."

If you are a faculty member who would like to learn more about service learning, please contact the Service Learning Initiative at svclrn01@uark.edu.

About the Service Learning Initiative: The Service Learning Initiative is a joint initiative of the University of Arkansas Provost Office and the Honors College with the purpose of formalizing and expanding Service Learning opportunities on campus. Since 2014, when the Initiative was launched, more than 150 courses have been designated as Service Learning. Each semester, faculty and course instructors are encouraged to apply for Service Learning course designation. More information regarding Service Learning Course Designation can be found on the Service Learning Initiative website.

Contacts

Jennie Popp, co-chair of the Service Learning Initiative
Honors College
479-575-7381, jpopp@uark.edu

Kendall Curlee, director of communications
Honors College
479-575-2024, kcurlee@uark.edu

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