As part of the post-pandemic strategy that UNAM Chicago has incorporated into its academic program, specialized Spanish courses were restored for teachers of the public school system (CPS), and health workers in the area of family practice.
During the opening ceremony of the 2023 cycle of the courses for teachers, Jane Fleming, headmistress of the Literacy Department of the Chicago Public Schools, said: "We are very excited about this new agreement between UNAM Chicago and the CPS for our teachers to learn Spanish with UNAM's expert instructors, and we hope that this experience can continue to expand.”
The Spanish language, she said, is necessary so that teachers can communicate more effectively with parents and students of Latino origin.
The first approach of UNAM Chicago with this Department was to donate the UNAM children's book collection to the Newberry Public Library. Subsequently, the first courses were taught to teachers who speak Spanish as a heritage language, one of the areas of specialty and research of the Spanish Department of UNAM Chicago, reported Erika Erdely, academic secretary of the branch.
These courses are being taught for the first time this year with funding from CPS and teachers have been invited mainly from the public schools of the southwest area of Chicago, where a high percentage of the student population is of Hispanic origin, he added.
It is expected that this work of linking the branch will continue to grow with other institutions such as the Erikson Institute, Thelma Thomas Early Childhood Education Center and the same Literacy Department of Chicago Public Schools.
Spanish course for medical staff, one of a kind
The growth of the Latino population in the Chicago area has led to the need for specialized attention in their native language, and one of the purposes of the UNAM branch in that city is to serve their community.
The target population of these Spanish courses are doctors, nurses and social workers, who interact with Spanish-speaking patients. In these classes, the teaching of Spanish is approached not only from the linguistic perspective but also from the cultural aspects of the patients. Due to their curricular content and high specialization, these courses are unique in the area.
The program began years ago with the Chicago Medical Association and the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. The classes are taught in two clinics located in the heart of the Hispanic community: one, in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, and the other in Lake Forest.
UNAM Chicago has been expanding its medical Spanish programs to other institutions such as Rush Hospital, Mount Sinai Hospital and Mercy Hospital. And this year it is expected to further promote these linking agreements to reach a larger population, said Claudia Muñoz, coordinator of Spanish teaching and culture, of the branch.