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2006 Faculty Awards: Adjunct Honoree “Floors It” In Terms of High-Energy Teaching

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award winner Allison Hughes-Maldonado will go over and above the call of duty to teach her students – even if it means crawling under her desk to drive home a point.

Date: 4/24/2006
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot Her big brothers and their “80 miles-per-hour” fastballs made Allison Hughes-Maldonado the teacher she is – because they prepared her well for any curves the classroom might throw her way.

To teach her students the Spanish preposition for 'below,' Hughes-Maldonado has been known to crawl under her desk.

Hughes-Maldonado explained, “With three older brothers, I always had to learn fast. I had to learn to catch their 80-miles-per-hour fast balls, to play football or anything else they threw at me, literally or figuratively. And once I learned something like baseball or football, I always wanted to share what I’d learned with everyone else. I guess you could say they taught me to teach.”

As it turned out, Hughes-Maldonado, adjunct instructor of Spanish and the winner of one of the University of Cincinnati’s 2006 President’s Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member Awards, became a teacher in the classroom even before she’d earned her baccalaureate at North Carolina State University where she majored in communications and Spanish. At the time, a nearby community college needed someone to teach a non-credit course in Spanish, and Hughes-Maldonado jumped at the chance to do what she knew she loved – not to mention that the $12 an hour offered was good pay for an undergraduate back in 1990.

Since that first teaching assignment, Hughes-Maldonado has taught in corporate settings, among community groups and in the classroom: Tutoring IBM employees in Spanish, leading public speaking courses at Iowa State University and even teaching medical faculty veterinary terms in Spanish.

But no matter how the subject matter or setting might change in her teaching career, one thing never changes – the energy and enthusiasm Hughes-Maldonado brings to her vocation. For instance, in order to teach (and make memorable) the Spanish prepositions for “above,” “below” and “beside,” she’ll jump atop her desk, leap to the side of it or crawl underneath it. What’s more, she’ll bring in all manner of objects – toys, hockey sticks, balls and gloves – to demonstrate to her students any number of Spanish nouns and verbs.

“Learning is a wonderful game, and I want to help the students know it as such too,” said Hughes-Maldonado.

One of her students, Hayley Hemm, a student in the College of Nursing, recalled that Hughes-Maldonado always has a Spanish song, dance or film clip playing as an addition to her lecture. Added Hemm, “She always brings in candy and other goodies for us every Friday without fail.”

Another student, Leslie Schuler who is enrolled in the College of Business, stated that Hughes-Maldonado “made me fall in love with the Spanish language.” So much so that Schuler decided to pursue a study abroad option in Costa Rica with, of course, the help of Hughes-Maldonado in finding scholarships to make that dream come true.

Such students are the reason that Hughes-Maldonado says she teaches with such gusto. She held up a thank-you note from Schuler and explained, “How could you not want to help someone to have such a tremendous life experience? No, not every student will have the chance to study abroad. And that’s why I want to make their classroom experience as compelling, cool, demanding and interactive as possible.”

So, it’s no wonder that Hughes-Maldonado’s colleagues nominated her for the President’s Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Member Award. And just the fact that she was nominated made Hughes-Maldonado feel like a winner. She stated, “Colleagues told me they were nominating me. Just knowing that and seeing their letters made me feel like I’d already won. I was honored and inspired. It really makes me want to do more than ever in my teaching career.”


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