Today’s SYA Spain is built upon the same core precepts established at SYA’s founding 46 years ago; the family homestay, a full academic year of rigorous study, a well-integrated calendar of school travel, and (except for the courses in English and math) an all-Spanish curriculum. Today’s course offerings, however, are broader and more varied than they were a generation ago. Five levels of Spanish language courses accommodate a naturally broad spectrum of abilities and preparation. At the same time, all students are invited to put their growing language abilities to use in the study of a number of innovative subject areas, many of which capitalize on interests that grow out of the experience of living in a modern, democratic and diverse Spain.
As a team of outside educators noted in their 2007 evaluation of SYA Spain, “the administration, staff and faculty in Zaragoza work exceptionally well together, and bring a wealth of talent, discipline, and enthusiasm to the teaching table.” As the examples below demonstrate, the faculty is poised to take advantage of its new home at Paseo de Pamplona.
Way Beyond Advanced Placement
Everyone at SYA can take the AP test, but only the top Spanish language class, Advanced Linguistic Conventions: Humor, prepares for the very difficult DELE, a languageexam used by European students and professionals to certify their high level ofSpanish language proficiency. As teacher Marta Escartín will quickly tell you, this is an exam you can prepare for only by getting very, very good at speaking idiomatically, by achieving high levels of aural and written comprehension, by mastering the finer points of grammar and by building an extensive vocabulary. High-spirited and fasttalking, Marta pulls no punches in the classroom. At the end of the year, many of her students reward her—and themselves—with top grades on this tough exam.
Hobbes and Locke, in Spanish of course!
Young and multifaceted, Antonio López-Piña is the newest member of SYA’s Spanish faculty. His background and skill sets are in political science, philosophy, experimental theater—and soccer! Each year, he builds a loyal following in an introductory course in political science that has his students grappling in Spanish with such weighty topics as the political philosophies of John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. Antonio’s students seem to revel in the challenge as they master political theory and history relevant to Spain and the broader European context.
Art: From Ángel to Álvaro
Ángel Vilalta, who was an inspiration for many students and faculty in Spain, initially taught art very informally, as a part of the basic course in Spanish conversation; only later in his career did he teach a dedicated course in art history. Today, Álvaro Ávila de la Torre teaches not only art history but also a course he pioneered on Spanish and Mediterranean art. No matter what he teaches, Álvaro lovingly carries on the tradition begun by Ángel, captivating art students with his infectious enthusiasm and his expertise.