Public Relations and Marketing Communications
COVINGTON, Ga.– Stephanie Langston didn’t set out to teach in Spanish. The 2022-23 Perimeter College Global Engagement Award recipient got her journalism degree first.
It was a study abroad trip to Spain that changed her career trajectory.
“While in Spain, I thoroughly enjoyed the ability to communicate in a second language and was simultaneously struck by the beauty of cultural differences and yet the similarity of intrinsic human nature,” she said. “I felt that I would rather contribute to the improvement of human interactions and relations than report mostly on their shortcomings.”
Langston went back to school to earn a second degree in Spanish and then her master’s degree in foreign language education and has been teaching Spanish on the Newton Campus and online since 2007. She now is a senior lecturer.
Helping students see how their use of another language can help in their careers is a passion for Langston. “I try to help my students see the value of knowing another language and offer them advice on tying cross-cultural competency skills to any program of study,” she said. Her students have taken her classes to improve their Spanish-speaking skills in the courtroom, medical profession and in business.
“Our economy is global and the impact of the decisions of any one country can be felt by many others. Our students need to be prepared for this interconnectedness. They need to be sensitive to the perspectives and needs of others.”
That extends to getting her students out of their comfort zones and stepping into the shoes of someone who does not speak the language. “I have found that the best way to do these projects is to communicate with a native speaker or heritage speaker and learn about that person’s culture. We live in a diverse world, but we may not always cross paths in our daily lives. Being the minority in a situation is sometimes a novel experience for our students, and having empathy for someone who is here as a minority allows them to see that person’s experience here as a non-native speaker.”
Langston uses a “Culture in Our Community Project” that connects the topics they are learning in class—eating out, shopping, etc.—with the language skills needed to carry out those tasks in the community. For these projects, students learn how to speak Spanish while patronizing small businesses run by Spanish speakers.
She also offers an end-of-the-semester project where students in her advanced Spanish courses have the option to use their newfound skills in a restaurant. “We specifically ask for a Spanish-speaking server, and they converse in Spanish to order their meal,” she said.
It’s important to give her students the freedom to choose how to incorporate their new language skills in meaningful and creative ways outside of the classroom, she said.
“I want them to create a project that is digital portfolio ready,” she said. In the past, some of her students have created study abroad virtual tours or pamphlets; some made Spanish tours of local parks, while others wrote original children’s books in Spanish, or created Spanish language websites and YouTube videos.
Langston’s desire to introduce different cultural experiences frequently extends beyond the classroom. She is the chief organizer for the annual International Education Week on the Newton Campus and brings events like the Mexican holiday “Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) to “life” with art projects and food for the entire student body.
“I use these events as opportunities to globalize the entire campus. Of course, I’m also happy if someone discovers they want to learn another language.”
This isn’t the first time Langston has been honored for faculty excellence—in 2021, she received the Service Excellence Award.