Passion for teaching-and teaching Quechua-earns Manley Rowan's Junior Faculty Innovative Teaching Award

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How do you make a language spoken by 10 million people in South America relevant to a class of English-speaking college students in South Jersey? That’s the challenge for Marilyn Manley, who teaches Quechua at Rowan. Her efforts have earned her the University’s Junior Faculty Innovative Teaching Award.    

How do you make a language spoken by 10 million people in South America relevant to a class of English-speaking college students in South Jersey?

If you're Marilyn Manley, Assistant Professor of Spanish in Rowan University's Foreign Languages and Literatures Department, and the class includes the study of the Quechua language, you use a little song, a little dance, a bit of knot-tying, a few guest speakers, and a trip or two to an alpaca farm. That's in addition, of course, to the intensive, in-class teaching of the language itself.

Manley, who recently received Rowan's Junior Faculty Innovative Teaching Award, believes students learn more about a language when they have some personal involvement with it.

To that end, she created two Honors courses--"Linguistics and Cultures of Native South America," co-taught with Geography/Anthropology Professor Maria Rosado, and "Modern Descendents of the Incas: Quechua Language, Culture and History"--to educate Rowan students about the language and the cultural diversity of South America's native peoples.

Both courses included the study of Quechua, one of her research specialties. Quechua is a language that's spoken by about 10 million descendants of the Incan Empire in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, northern Chile, northern Argentina, southern Columbia and western Brazil. According to Manley, Rowan is one of approximately 20 universities in the United States that teaches the Quechua language.

"Quechua is a less commonly taught language and it's rare to find the study of it anywhere in the United States," says Manley, who studied the language at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her doctorate.

"One of the big motivators to learn language is culture," she continues. "In learning the culture and the history, students learn the context of the language."

According to Manley, Quechua has always been primarily an oral language. Only recently--in the 1970s--linguists devised a written system for the Quechua language. During the reign of the Incan Empire, speakers used qhipu, a system of knotted ropes, to communicate at a distance. In class, Manley taught students to tie qhipu knots. Additionally, she taught her students the wayno, a traditional Andean dance.

Students learned traditional Andean music by playing pan-pipes known as zampoñas. And in both courses she developed, the class visited local alpaca farms, where students learned about alpacas, which are widely used as domestic animals by Quechua speakers.

"That brought to life the history the students were reading," says Manley, a Glassboro resident. "The alpacas were used as sacrifices for the Incas, which shows their importance.

"Rather than simply memorizing Quechua vocabulary words and learning facts about the Incan culture in a vacuum, these students emerged from both classes feeling as though they had come to experience and know Andean culture and Quechua language in a very personal way," she adds.

Manley says co-teaching the "Linguistics and Cultures of Native South America" course with Rosado, her faculty mentor, was a terrific experience for both her and the students.

"Maria taught archaeology and anthropology and I added Quechua language, linguistics and sociolinguistics," says Manley, a Hispanic linguist. "The class was trilingual. We spoke English, Spanish and Quechua. It was a very dynamic and lively course."

Established by Rowan Writing Arts Professor Sanford Tweedie, Rowan's Junior Faculty Innovative Teaching Award recognizes a junior faculty member who demonstrates "innovative and meaningful teaching that promotes student learning."

Manley's work in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, certainly fits the bill, says Tweedie, who established the award from funds he received when he won the 2004 Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award. The Junior Faculty Award, which includes a $250 prize, also is supported by Education Professor Christy Faison, the president's office, and the Faculty Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

"The selection committee was particularly impressed with the diversity of learning experiences, both in and outside the classroom, that Professor Manley included in her courses," Tweedie says. "And student evaluations lauded her teaching abilities."

While teaching Quechua was a dream of Manley's--"I've been dying to teach Quechua here," she says--she has another new class in the works. In Spring 2008, she'll teach Hispanic Sociolinguistics, as part of the Foreign Language Department's Special Topics Series, which she proposed and sponsored, along with colleagues in her department.

"I love that my work is varied. It's always interesting. I love teaching. I find it exciting and fun.

"Students are able to learn from me, but I'm also able to learn from them," continues Manley, who has mentored three Rowan international students from South America since joining the faculty in 2004. "It's very satisfying to see students make progress."

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