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Faculty Spotlight: Wanessa Velloso

Photo of Wanessa VellosoThough Wanessa Velloso has been with the Volunteer family since 2010, she has over 40 years of teaching experience. Velloso is known by many of her students as a welcoming instructor, often incorporating innovative teaching strategies in her Portuguese courses to create an inclusive educational atmosphere. We were able to sit down with Velloso and pick her brain on some of the teaching techniques she uses to foster such a positive learning environment.

TLI: Is teaching something you always wanted to do?

Velloso: My first experiences with teaching began when I was just a teenager. My twin brother didn’t like to study, and I often found myself having to tutor him on some materials. I quickly discovered that I really enjoyed the feeling of helping someone understand a concept, and the overall teaching and learning process just really fascinated me. Now I’ve been teaching for 42 years, and I’ve found that teaching fosters such a connectedness among people.

TLI: You’re known for your reputation among students for your ability to create an inclusive and active atmosphere for your students. How are some ways that you try to create that environment in your courses?

Velloso: I think it’s important that as learners, we all have strengths and weaknesses. Not every student learns the same way, and students’ backgrounds can affect how they learn and what strategies they respond to the best. Our educational system is made for the mainstream learner; whenever I have a student with a different learning style, I try to cater to their needs, too. For instance, some students may benefit from extra time working through speaking and writing the language than the regular class time allows. So I discovered that by using OIT’s desktop recording software, I can record videos and put those as examples of speaking through the language or how to write something in Portuguese. I’ve found that’s really helped a lot of students grasp certain concepts they might struggle with at first.

TLI: How are some ways that you show that you care about your students, or try to foster a connection between you and your students?

Velloso: Through my excitement about the language, it helps my students become excited about learning it. They think it’s so funny how excited I get over teaching the Portuguese culture and language, and it fosters a welcoming atmosphere where they feel comfortable asking questions and we have a lot of open discussion. And I tell my students, if I say anything that offends them, just let me know. Let’s have an open dialogue. Also for my freshmen students, I schedule time with them one-on-one, to help them with their transition to UT, to see how they’re understanding the language and to just let them know I am here to support them.

TLI: Is there anything else you would like our audiences to remember in regards to inclusive teaching or anything about you personally or professionally?

Velloso: I think it’s important to remember that language is not an end to itself, but it’s a tool to learn something else. All learning is through experiences, and I try to make the course material meaningful and relevant to my students. This gives the students confidence in what they’re learning; they’re gaining a more connected view of the world. When we expose ourselves to different languages and backgrounds, we get to experience a different world.

If you’re interested in learning more about inclusive teaching strategies, check out our inclusive teaching resource webpage.