Barcelona: Inside the Classroom with Iolanda Nieves de la Vega

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Anna Egan
September 9, 2014

Ever since Iolanda was a child, she knew she wanted to teach. After completing degrees in Spanish Philology and Catalan Philology from the University of Barcelona, Iolanda went on to specialize in Business Spanish, teaching throughout Europe and the U.S. before settling back in Barcelona.

Since 2006, Iolanda has been teaching general and business Spanish at IES Abroad Barcelona in order to enable students to communicate in professional contexts, taking into account the linguistic, cultural, and interpersonal communication aspects. She employs a collaborative approach where she and her students are a team working toward shared goals they set together. As they work and grow together, students learn, develop, and improve their Spanish.

In order to create this collaborative space for learning, Iolanda’s classes are as unique as the individuals she teaches. “I think about each one of my students as much as I think about the group as a whole and always try my best to make the class a very special place. It has to be a place where creativity, new ideas, and ways of seeing reality can grow and flow.”

Seeing the results of her work—students working together with enthusiasm for Spanish—is one of the best parts of her job. “When they have chosen a project that inspires them, you see them helping each other, proposing innovative ideas. And they are doing all this in Spanish! This time is very magical to me!”

Former student Tyler Oleski fondly recalls the Advanced Grammar class he took with Iolanda in Spring 2013 and credits her for dramatically improving his Spanish. “Her teaching style is so animated, with gestures and humor to help clarify certain words or phrases. I learned to speak Spanish with body language and voice inflections as a result of her high-energy and fun teaching style,” he says.

Learning extends beyond the walls of her classroom, too. Iolanda uses the city to create deeper educational experiences for her students. Through several field study sessions during the term, students come to understand the context in which they are learning Spanish, opening their minds to new experiences and perceptions.

With the excitement that builds over the semester, the end is always bittersweet. But students keep in touch through email, keeping Iolanda up-to-date on where their lives have taken them since their time in Barcelona. Some even return for a visit and a cup of coffee with her. Then, it all starts again when she welcomes a new group of students to her classroom.

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Anna Egan

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