Ana Fernández Bravo, lecturer in Spanish, wins Collegiate Teaching Award

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Ana Fernandez, University of IowaAna Fernández Bravo, lecturer in the University of Iowa Department of Spanish and Portuguese, has earned the Collegiate Teaching Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In addition to her teaching, Fernández Bravo is the coordinator of Cafecito Cervantes, an extracurricular Spanish-language discussion group for students and community members.

Fernández Bravo's students appreciate that she finds unique opportunities for speaking Spanish in real-world settings, even enlisting her hometown in Spain in the effort.  

"I took two courses with Ana while I was minoring in Spanish—Medical Spanish in Contemporary Society and Spanish Language Skills: Speaking. I can easily say she is one of my favorite professors from the University of Iowa," one student said. "As her student, I always felt both supported and challenged, and it was in her classes that I finally became confident using the subjunctive mood, 'if' clauses, and the future and conditional tenses. However, beyond being an incredibly knowledgeable and capable teacher, Ana went out of her way to find opportunities for me and the other students to practice in real-world situations. One of my most memorable experiences in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese was when Ana set up a language exchange project for us with students from her hometown in Spain. We were able to talk over the phone with native Spanish speakers in what was my first experience using Spanish for real-life communication outside of the classroom."

Fernández Bravo’s specialty is Spanish for use in medical settings. Students who take her classes often do so because they wish to work in health care and want to be able to competently interact with Spanish-speaking patients, caretakers, and colleagues.

"I took Señora Fernández’s course in my second semester at Iowa, hopeful that I would learn Spanish medical vocabulary that would help me for my future in medicine," said one pre-med student. "From the very first class, however, I knew I was in for a unique experience. Señora’s infectious energy and positivity radiated throughout the room. Regardless of how my day was going, I knew I would feel better after Medical Spanish class. While I certainly got my fill of terminology with our multiple vocabulary quizzes, I was impressed by how much cultural information Señora Fernández weaved into every single lecture. As she explained, good medical providers must be able to understand things from the patient’s perspective, and these perspectives are chiefly rooted in culture. Señora taught us about the centrality of family and religion and widely held beliefs many Hispanic populations had about health care."

Denise Filios, professor and chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, noted Fernández Bravo’s initiative in developing courses for students interested in learning Spanish for use in health care professions.

"In 2016, Ana developed the first major-level Spanish course for students interested in health care," Filios said. "This course has become central to our 'Spanish for the professions' offerings, which now includes courses at all levels of the undergraduate curriculum, from GE Spanish language courses to advanced courses for Spanish majors."

Filios said Fernández Bravo is innovative in other important ways, as well.

"She is one of our most innovative teachers in her use of instructional technology, bringing Spanish-speaking medical professionals into the class, and the many conversation exchange opportunities she has created for her students," Filios said. "These innovations center on enabling her students to use their language skills in real-world situations and especially to integrate Spanish into their career plans, whether in health care or in other fields, such as teaching English as a second language or legal interpreting."

Fernández Bravo holds master's degrees in Hispanic Literary Studies and in Teaching English as a Second Language. She has taught at the UI since 2014.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Iowa is a comprehensive college offering 73 majors in the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. More than 17,000 undergraduate and 1,900 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by professors at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all UI undergraduates through the General Education Program, and confers about 70 percent of the UI's bachelor's degrees each academic year.