Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Phylicia Martel, '11

TeachNOLA, Lake Area New Tech Early College High School, Spanish Department

After graduating from Tulane, Phylicia entered the TeachNOLA Teaching Fellows Program, an alternative pathway into the teaching profession. Her journey with the program began with a highly intensive, 5-week Summer Training Institute. Upon completion of the Summer Training Institute, she was hired to work as a Spanish Teacher at Lake Area New Tech Early College High School, a school of over 600 students in the Gentilly Neighborhood of New Orleans. In her first year, it was her responsibility to teach Spanish I and II to nearly 200 students in grades 9-12, as well as instruct a Senior Seminar course, with the goal of preparing graduating seniors for their transitions to college. Additionally, she was the Head Women‘€™s Basketball Coach for the Lady Leopards, and also sponsored the school‘€™s first-ever Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica (Spanish Honor Society).

Phylicia reflects on her time at Tulane…

Why did you choose to major in Latin American Studies?
I chose to major in Latin American Studies for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I had a truly wonderful high school Spanish teacher, Len Lavin, who instilled in me a passion for the Spanish language and Hispanic culture. Furthermore, as a freshman with an undeclared major, I had the opportunity to participate in a Border Awareness Experience, which brought me to the U.S.-Mexican border region in May 2008. The program highlighted issues in the region, by placing students with host families in Juárez, México and Anthony, New Mexico, in addition to hosting meetings with local grassroots organizations. My experiences during this course ultimately sealed the deal for me. The following year I chose to study for an academic year in Spain. While there, I was able to travel extensively; it was an opportunity that allowed me to briefly conduct research on Galician emigration patterns to Latin America. After my year abroad I decided to transfer to Tulane, as a junior, and delve more deeply into the Latin American Studies major. Ultimately, being a Latin American Studies major at Tulane was ideal. It emphasized an interdisciplinary approach, research-based learning, and career preparedness through a wide array of cross-curricular course options, exceptional advisors and professors, and a truly challenging, yet rewarding Senior Capstone course.

How has your background in LAST helped you since graduation?
My background in Latin American Studies has helped me immensely since graduation. As I prepare lesson plans each week, I always reflect on what I learned, and what I enjoyed during my time as a Latin American Studies major. Those experiences carry over into my classroom, influencing many of my instructional choices. Not many people realize that the job of a Spanish teacher isn‘€™t limited to simply teaching grammatical aspects of a language. It also includes teaching cultural concepts. We spent an entire quarter, for example, sampling a variety of perspectives and information on immigration to the United States, specifically from Latin America. My students learned how to express their thoughts on how immigration affects our country and our Greater New Orleans community more specirfically. We also watched the movie Voces inocentes, a film based on a true story of a boy witnessing the horrors of the Salvadoran Civil War. My students engaged with this film on multiple levels. We were able to sustain a conversation about a variety of pertinent topics‘€“war-torn Latin American countries, child soldiers, poverty, violence, and the United States‘€™ influence in the region. I have many examples of times when my Latin American Studies degree was highly relevant.

The Latin American Studies major helps you to explore how to pursue a career related to the major. The department‘€™s professors and advisors provided me with countless tools, they even taught me how to tailor a resumé and cover letter specifically for a job in the field. These seemingly small things are what set the program and its staff apart from any other, and I owe them a great deal for helping me reach where I am today.

In hindsight, what would you have done differently as a LAST major?
Absolutely nothing. No regrets here.

Any words of wisdom for LAST undergraduates?
Study abroad at least once. Utilize the department resources and staff, which are second to none. Push yourself and take challenging and intriguing courses. Get involved with the local community, whether you work with the Hispanic Apostolate teaching ESL or volunteer in a Spanish classroom (like mine)‘€“find out where your interests lie and pursue them vigorously.






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Upcoming Events

Central America: People and the Environment Asynchronous Institute

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Register now for the ASYNCHRONOUS COURSE which opens up in July
Please note, the synchronous blended institute taking place June 14 – 25 is no longer accepting registrants.

This summer educator institute is the third institute in a series being offered by Tulane University, The University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University. This series of institutes is designed to enhance the presence of Central America in the K-12 classroom. Each year, participants engage with presenters, resources and other K-12 colleagues to explore diverse topics in Central America with a focus on people and the environment. It is not required to have participated in past institutes to join us.

The Stone Center for Latin American Studies at Tulane University is excited to host and coordinate this year’s institute. Tulane University and New Orleans are both unique and important places to explore the deep connections to Central America with a focus on people and environment. With presentations by leading historians and sociologists on Central America, environment and race we are excited to share the work and resources from presenters as well as the unique resources at Tulane.


NOW REGISTERING FOR THE ASYNCHRONOUS INSTITUTE For more information, please email or call 504.865.5164. Space is limited.