People / Faculty

Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein
Lecturer Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures
  • Address
    Casa Hispánica
    612 W. 116th Street
    New York, NY 10027
  • Office Hours
    By appointment
  • Phone
    (212) 854-4187
  • Fax
    (212) 854-5322
  • Email

Profile

Rachel Stein holds a Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University, where she has taught Spanish language and literature courses at all levels. She earned an M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College and B.A. in the College of Letters from Wesleyan University.

Rachel specializes in medieval and early modern Spain, Portugal, and their overseas empires, with a particular interest in early modern globalization and the history of the book. Her dissertation explores the global publishing processes that converged through the Lisbon press of Pedro Craesbeeck (1597-1632), tracing the activities of authors, publishers, and printers among coordinates as diverse as Mexico City, Brazil, Goa, Morocco, Antwerp, and Seville. Her research has been supported by the U.S. Department of Education, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Rachel is a published translator and has edited the Spanish subtitles for the Metropolitan Opera. Before pursuing an academic career, Rachel lived and worked in Madrid, Spain, for five years, where she earned a living as a copy editor, translator, and hip hop dance teacher.

In addition to her position as Lecturer of Language in LAIC, Rachel is an associate faculty member of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, a nonprofit organization that provides liberal arts educational opportunities to local communities throughout New York. She has taught English-language seminars on such topics as Don Quixote and Al-Andalus to a wide range of adult students.

Academic Statement

Foreign Language Pedagogy

As a Spanish teacher, I strive to foster a welcoming yet rigorous classroom environment where students speak in the target language as much as possible. On the first day of class, I ask students to sign a pledge to participate exclusively in Spanish unless they request permission to do otherwise. This immersive approach, influenced by my time as a Master’s student at Middlebury College in Vermont and Madrid and five years living in Spain, helps students see that they are learning the language for communicative purposes—to interact and relate with others, and not just pass an exam. This language contract only works, of course, if I create a welcoming, safe space where everyone feels comfortable and motivated to speak in Spanish. As such, I always bring a sense of humor and lighthearted attitude to class to compliment the high expectations, attempting to build up students’ confidence with positive verbal feedback while saving the more individualized grammar corrections for written work.

My approach to teaching is student-centered, although I do briefly lecture with visual aids when necessary to clarify important grammatical concepts. I dedicate the vast majority of class time to partner and group activities in which students have to work together in Spanish to solve some common task. Games, competitions, peer interviews, debates, and collective creative writing assignments are just some of the in-class activities you will carry out as a student in my class. I believe it is essential to constantly vary group work in ways that get students moving around the room and practicing Spanish with a wide variety of peers.

Another key component of my teaching philosophy is the integration of authentic cultural content. Exposure to movies, music, literature, magazines, and newspapers from different parts of the Hispanophone world gives students a window into the global cultures they will be able to access by gaining fluency in Spanish. Just as importantly, each cultural product constitutes a rich object around which to design a variety of pedagogical activities to meet the content and skill objectives at hand.

As an educator based in the city of New York, I aim to exploit the rich local resources available for language learning and encourage my students to engage with Hispanic cultures outside the classroom. My beginner-level students at Columbia photographed and analyzed Spanish-language signs around the city, while my intermediate class realized a semester-long project in which they interviewed a native Spanish speaker and researched their interviewee’s country of origin. In an upper-level elective, students blogged in Spanish about their experiences examining medieval and early modern books in archives around New York City and collectively created a digital exhibit of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish-language imprints in Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

I am deeply committed to giving students personalized attention in office hours and detailed and actionable feedback on their compositions and exams. Many of my students at Columbia have highlighted this commitment in their evaluations, noting, for example, that I was “amazingly helpful outside of class (especially on essays)” and have “a personal care for each student.” Likewise, I always encourage feedback from my students, and attempt to incorporate materials that reflect their interests whenever possible to maintain enthusiasm and motivation.