Now that I think of it, I have also had some memorable Spanish teachers in addition to Enrico Mordini at Divine Heart Seminary. My first semester at UIC, I made sure that I registered for a Spanish class. I took a placement test on which I scored poorly. When you sort of know Spanish, as I did then, you manage to talk yourself into the wrong answer many times just because it sounds right. I had to take a second placement test in the Spanish department because I had a Spanish surname, I admitted that I came from a Spanish-speaking family, and I still actually spoke Spanish. Sort of. For the placement test, I had to write in Spanish and explain where I worked and what I planned to do at UIC. This was actually very difficult for me because I only studied Spanish for two years at Divine Heart Seminary and I didn’t really apply myself because I was just a rebellious teenager. I occasionally wrote letters in Spanish to Mexico, but they were usually very short. So I wrote this little essay in Spanish and they placed me in Spanish class for heritage speakers. This class consisted of students from Spanish-speaking backgrounds who sort of knew Spanish, but not really.
I will always remember our first Spanish instructor. She was a teaching assistant from the Dominican Republic named Juana. She insisted that we call her Jenny. I think she wanted to fit in with the rest of the Americans. As a side note, I was always, and still am, amazed by the fact that graduate students would come from Spanish-speaking countries to UIC to study Spanish. Anyway, Jenny was quite a teacher. When we took exams, she would look it over and tell us we might want to look over a certain answer. When I did, I realized that I was wrong and she gave me a chance to correct my mistakes. She came to Chicago in September and she was amazed at how cold it was: about 60 degrees Fahrenheit! The next week, the temperature dropped to about 50 degrees. When I saw her walking to class that 50-degree day, she wore a full-length winter coat, a hat, a scarf, and gloves. She couldn’t believe how cold it was in Chicago. Just as a warning, I told her that it would get much colder in just a few weeks. I also reminded her that it also snowed in Chicago. Once winter arrived, she would only take off her only her hat, scarf, and gloves, but keep her coat on. She would shiver during the whole class. When she graduated with her masters degree, she immediately went back to the Dominican Republic.