GREENVILLE, S.C.—Furman University modern languages professor Sofia Kearns has been selected as winner of the 2010 South Carolina Commission on Higher Education Service Learning Award in the independent colleges category.
Dr. Sofia Kearns
The award recognizes service learning programs at South Carolina’s colleges and universities that are making significant impacts in local communities and in the classroom. Kearns will accept the award at a March 3 ceremony in Columbia.
Kearns’ service learning project is titled, “TESOL Support through a Latin American Civilization Class (Spanish 240).”
The program’s goals are twofold: 1) to support Teachers of English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) in the Berea public schools through individual tutoring of their Hispanic students struggling academically due to their lack of English proficiency, and 2) to give hands-on experience to Furman undergraduates studying Latin American civilization.
Through the program, Furman Latin American Civilization tutors are paired with a TESOL in a Berea school and assigned to work with one or several students at least twice a week for 10 weeks, providing valuable long-term individualized attention to the students served. Last fall, Furman students tutored approximately 40 elementary, middle and high school students at eight Berea schools. In the five years since this program started, approximately 150 Furman students have had the opportunity to tutor students.
“There is an urgent need in the public schools for tutors who can communicate in Spanish, even if at a basic level,” said Kearns, who teaches Spanish at Furman. “The tutors we provide have an intermediate command of Spanish, which means they are able to communicate easily in oral and written form about everyday matters.”
Kearns said students provide a “sorely needed” service for Berea schools, and Furman students receive cultural enrichment through the time they invest in the Hispanic community.
“My students get acquainted with the Berea neighborhood, adjacent to Furman but a world apart in terms of ethnicity, history, socio-economic and educational levels,” Kearns said. “They also learn of the successes and struggles of the ESOL program, establish working relationships with the ESOL teachers, and learn of current immigration issues. Getting to know this community is a life-changing experience for some of my tutors, in some ways similar to Study Away experiences.”
Kearns joined the Furman faculty in 1994. She received her B.A. degree from the Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia, and earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Illinois.
For more information, contact Sofia Kearns at (864) 294-3165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.