Faculty Member of the Year award goes to modern languages professor

Maria DePaoli (Rafael Garcia | Collegian Media Group)

Maria DePaoli, associate professor of modern languages, was awarded Housing and Dining Services’ Faculty Member of the Year.

Kyley Ast, junior in elementary education, nominated her because DePaoli makes her want to learn more about the language.

“I nominated Dr. DePaoli because she is an all-around great professor who strengthened my abilities to speak and understand Spanish, but also because she ensued a lot of the passion I have for continuing to learn Spanish,” Ast said.

The Faculty Member of the Year award recognizes a Kansas State faculty member who makes an outstanding contribution to their students and community each year.

“I feel very honored and humbled to receive this award because I know that there are many other faculty members deserving of such recognition,” DePaoli said. “I feel very grateful and deeply appreciate my student’s generous nomination.”

DePaoli teaches intermediate, high and advanced Spanish courses, which include culture, literary and film courses as well as specialized courses for health professionals. She has been a professor at K-State since 2002.

DePaoli said she enjoys being an educator, and that she also appreciates what she learns from her students.

“What I really enjoy about being a professor is the opportunity to teach and advise my students and always learning so much from them in the process,” DePaoli said.

Teaching students about Latin American culture is very important to DePaoli.

“The most rewarding thing about being a professor is that I have the opportunity to share information about my Mexican heritage and the rich Latin American culture with my students,” DePaoli said.

DePaoli said learning Spanish gives her students a professional advantage.

“I want them to be aware of the many professional opportunities associated with becoming culturally competent and language proficient in Spanish,” DePaoli said.

For Ast, DePaoli’s classes helped her better understand Spanish culture.

“We students were able to drive our learning in her classes, so we got to discover so much more about the literature and the history of Latin America because we had a choice in our discussions and assignments,” Ast said.

DePaoli’s desire to become a teacher came to her at Purdue University when she was getting her master’s degree.

“I began teaching basic Spanish courses as a GTA, and noticed that it gave me great satisfaction,” DePaoli said. “Also, I really admired my professors. The wealth of their knowledge and their passion to teach inspired me to pursue a career in academia.”

DePaoli’s intuition was right, as she said she now loves her job.

“I love having the opportunity to do something that I really enjoy,” DePaoli said. “I feel enthusiastic about teaching, research and service. Therefore, academia has been a really good fit for me.”