Carmen Alzás does more than teach her UC San Diego Extension students how to speak better Spanish. She treats them as friends.
“A lot of my students end up being friends of mine,” said Alzás. “As a Mexican, I believe that’s part of my personality. They feel like they’re learning from someone they can relate to, so we talk about our shared experiences. That’s what I express in my classes, that we learn from each other.”
At various times, she teaches classes in six levels in the Spanish Certificate along with English to Spanish Translation Levels I and II, in UCSD Extension’s Translation certificate program.
“Some of my students start at the beginner level and they end up taking level 6,” she said. “By the time they’re finished, we've all become good friends.”
A native Spanish speaker who lived in Mexico City until she was 20, Alzás has more than 25 years of experience teaching Spanish.
She’s also the co-author with her sister of 14 Spanish-language textbooks on Mexican history, geography, and civics — aimed at elementary and middle-school students.
Alzás is convinced that her books struck a responsive chord because “they’re written by teachers instead of historians,” she said. “It’s not so much that we’re great writers, but we are teachers. Our task as writers and teachers is to become that easily accessible bridge between knowledge and students.”
Alzás taught high school and college-level courses in Guadalajara prior to moving to the U.S. about 11 years ago. She took the Translation Certificate before becoming an instructor herself.
“Teaching is what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “It’s a pleasure because I’m so blessed to be doing what I love.”
Update June 2021