The Hispanic culture has always been a part of Donna Gillespie.
"I grew up abroad," she said. "I’ve been speaking Spanish since age 5 and have been immersed in the language and culture ever since. It seemed a logical step to major in Spanish in college along with my degree in the sciences."
Although she began her professional career as a physical therapist, Gillespie always kept her love for the Spanish language and culture alive through her travels and Spanish literature. Then the opportunity to study for a master's in Spanish at the Saint Louis University-Madrid campus came well into her career as a physical therapist, and she knew she couldn’t pass it up.
It was a life-changing experience that led Gillespie to begin teaching Spanish. She taught at the University of Florida as a graduate assistant and completed her doctoral studies in Spanish Literature in Fall 2012. In addition to teaching beginning and intermediate Spanish courses at Florida, she also taught a Spanish Communication Skills course in Santander, Spain, which she considers an invaluable experience.
"In some sense, I’ve always been teaching in my professional career -- first as a physical therapist, and now as a Spanish instructor," she said. "My studies at the Saint Louis University-Madrid campus inspired me so much that I knew I wanted to share with others what my professors had shared with me. The language, literature and culture came alive for me in Spain, and my mentors inspired me to continue on with my studies. I arrived to the University of Florida a few years later and was afforded so many invaluable opportunities that helped shape me as a teacher and as a student.
"What a rewarding experience to be able to teach students a language and culture that I am so passionate about. I hope my students gain a new perspective on the Spanish language and Hispanic culture. My goal is to introduce them not only to the tools they need to communicate effectively in the target language, but also to an understanding of the vast diversity within the Hispanic community."
Now at College of DuPage, Gillespie is serving as a co-director for COD's Costa Rica Study Abroad program and knows it will be a life-changing experience for her students. That immersion was influential in her life, but she also is grateful to the many others who provide inspiration.
"I am inspired by my family –- they are my role models and my most loyal supporters; I am inspired by my professors –- their vast knowledge and passion have been such an inspiration; I am inspired by my students -– their desire to learn is my motivation; and finally, I am inspired the 'greats' of Spanish literature: Cervantes, Unamuno and García Lorca to name a few. Their words have accompanied me on my journey to here."