Longtime USA Associate Professor Named Teacher of the Year
Posted on May 26, 2023
In a constantly changing world, University of South Alabama Associate Professor of
Spanish Dr. Zoya Khan works diligently to ensure her class discussions, materials, assignments
and projects are evolving and engaging to all of her students. Because of her dedication,
diligent work and pedagogical strengths, she is the recipient of the 2023 Alabama
Educator of Excellence Award for Spanish (Post-Secondary).
The award was presented to Khan at the annual conference of the Alabama World Languages Association, which was held recently in Mobile.
“It was a great honor to be recognized by a state-level organization in a state that over the past 20 years has become my home,” Khan said. “I strive to create inclusive classrooms, to promote varied learning styles, to help foster success, and to welcome multiple points of view on the topics and texts analyzed and discussed in my classes.”
Representing language teachers at K-12 and university levels, the Alabama World Languages Association’s mission is to advocate for improved world languages education, and each year the organization selects teachers of French, German, Latin and Spanish at both K-12 and college levels for its Teacher of the Year awards.
Khan, born in New Delhi, India, said she is fortunate to have had outstanding mentors in India and the United States. She cites her father, a high school teacher in New Delhi, who inspired her to become a professor.
“Learning a language equips you with so many other skill sets, including learning to be comfortable with not being perfect, with not always grasping 100 percent of what is said, and to be okay with making mistakes,” she said. “Without this attitude, it is impossible to learn a language. I tell my students that learning a language teaches you to be more accepting of your own mistakes and of others.”
Through such acceptance, Khan adds, there is a real education payoff in terms of learning to internalize the course subject matter and learning to develop agile problem-solving skills.
“The Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literature has always put a high premium on excellence in teaching,” she said. “As a result, I am surrounded by gifted teachers who constantly innovate their pedagogical approaches to foster communicative and inclusive classroom environments. Being a part of this community of dedicated pedagogues inspires me to do my best for my students as a teacher and as an advisor.”
Khan encourages students to consider pursuing a double major that includes a language, noting the benefits of learning another language in a global economy.
“Whether you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, an entrepreneur, etc., proficiency in a foreign language will help you reach more people and thus be more successful,” she said.
Khan also serves as Director of the Graduate Certificate Program in Spanish for Healthcare Professionals, which she launched with her colleagues in the fall of 2020. In addition to her ongoing efforts to continue developing this program, she also has an active research agenda focused on contemporary Bolivian literature.
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