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Mercy Professor Hosts New Podcast About Teaching Languages Remotely

Alan Hartman in black suit jacket and tie

Director of Mercy College’s Modern Foreign Languages Program, Alan G. Hartman, D.M.L. — also an assistant professor of Spanish and Italian — hosts a new podcast for the New York Metropolitan Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP). The immediate goal of the podcast is to discuss issues related to teaching Spanish and Portuguese during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will continue post-pandemic on topics that will best serve the profession at that point. The first episode was released on September 2 with future episodes planned quarterly.

“As the pandemic hit, it became clear that the foreign language field was going through a transition and that no one really knew exactly how to approach this transition in the right way,” Hartman explained. “We thought a podcast would be the best way to provide meaningful resources and thoughtful discussion to teachers of Spanish and Portuguese. Now, this podcast is broadcasted on six different platforms, and we're getting hits from across the globe. It’s exciting.”

In the first episode, Hartman interviewed Rosanny Genao, a Spanish teacher at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College in the Bronx, and two of her students who graduated in June, Andi Greene and Yoelle Gulko. They spoke about teaching and learning Spanish remotely while New York City public schools were closed during the pandemic this spring. Genao shared how she worked to accommodate students’ learning needs, fostered a community online and assessed students while teaching remotely. The students spoke about the teaching techniques that particularly helped them learn, how they stayed motivated to participate in class and how they stayed organized while learning online.

Hearing from the students particularly energized Hartman: “Andi and Yoelle are very bright, just like the students I’ve taught in my 12 years at Mercy. They understand how to move in complicated, dynamic situations, and all they’re waiting for is the push. This gives me great hope for the future.”

Furthermore, the discussions about teaching methods and how these impact student learning have already informed his work at Mercy. “The conversation gave me tremendous insight as to what I should be paying attention to, not only while teaching but also as a program director,” he said. “I think the key is to keep students engaged and to make sure they're engaged. In the spring, no one really knew how to teach remotely. Now in the fall, I'm a very strong advocate for having students work in Zoom breakout rooms. Basically, I start my Spanish immersion classes by modeling, and then I bring students into the conversation to speak amongst themselves in front of the whole class. Next, I break them into pairs to continue speaking in breakout rooms. That way, they're all actively using the language throughout the class.”

Hartman praised the efforts of the AATSP chapter’s podcast committee, which includes professor Liliana Soto-Fernández from John Jay College, professor emeritus Mara-Lee Bierman from Rockland Community College and retired New York City public school teacher Bernie López — who is also the president of AATSP’s New York Metropolitan Chapter — in addition to Genao and Hartman. After deciding in the spring to launch the podcast, the committee worked diligently to bring on advisors with the necessary production expertise and then actually plan and launch the first high-quality episode. “No one is getting paid for this work,” Hartman explained. “We all just really care about the profession.”

The next episode, which will be released in December, will feature a panel of educators from the middle school, high school and undergraduate levels speaking about successful methods for virtual teaching and learning.

The first episode of the podcast is available here: https://anchor.fm/aatspmetny/episodes/Ignaugural-Episode-ej16q5. It can also be streamed on several other platforms such as Spotify, Google Podcasts and RadioPublic.