Students vote Foreign Language professor as “Top Professor”

Chair of the Foreign Language Department Claudia Vance discusses her passion for teaching. Vance is the top UNA professor on

News Editor Kaitlyn Davis

Up the creaky stairs of Wesleyan Hall and nestled in an office in the Foreign Language Department resides the top professor at UNA on

Chair of the Foreign Language Department Claudia Vance shows students the world inside and outside of the classroom, whether it is in her interactive Spanish class or on a Study Abroad trip.

Her “hilarious, caring” attitude and “amazing lectures” earned her a perfect 5.0 score on the website.

The UNA alumna said she does not want her students to be afraid of making a mistake when learning a new language because most students make errors.

“One of the first things that we do in class is we try to establish an air of inclusion,” Vance said. “(So) the students feel comfortable when they speak.”

Vance also tries to make her class fun and interactive, she said.

“You can’t sit in my class and not say anything,” Vance said. “It’s impossible. I challenge students to be creative and funny. So, I get a kick out of it.”

Students get a kick out of her classes, too.

“Dr. Vance is so full of energy,” said sophomore Tanner McGill. “She always has a wonderful smile on her face that is so welcoming every day. Her classes are so much fun and educational. She really incorporates all learning styles into her classes.”

This year marks Vance’s 20th year at UNA, and she is still just as passionate about teaching as she was 20 years ago, she said.

“I love what I do,” Vance said. “Some days I’m not feeling that great. When I go into the classroom and when I come out, I come out more energized and recharged.”

Except for a stint at Baskin Robins when she was 16, teaching is all Vance has ever known, she said.

Teaching is the perfect fit for her, since the petite professor struggled to see over the counters at her ice cream gig, she said.

Spanish has always come easily to Vance since she is a native speaker from Colombia. She moved to the Shoals area when she was seven, she said.

“My mom’s from New York, my dad’s Columbian,” Vance said. “I graduated from Muscle Shoals High School so I feel, really, like I’m from here. But at home, we spoke in Spanish. So, that’s how I maintained my Spanish, and it’s been a life-long gift for me.”

Besides teaching Spanish, another passion of Vance’s is taking students on trips abroad, she said.

“I’m never going to get rich taking people abroad, but when we go abroad, it’s life changing for the students,” she said.

“They’ve never considered another point of view, and it’s like a whole world opens up. I love seeing that every single year.”

As an undergraduate at UNA, Vance went on a study abroad trip herself, through Europe. That trip that made her want to become a professor and take students on study abroad trips, too, Vance said.

Foreign Language Professor Alejandra Alvarado-Brizuela traveled with Vance on study abroad trips to Paris and Costa Rica.

“(Traveling with Vance) is effortless, Alvarado-Brizuela said. “She is very flexible, and that is something that people always need. It will always make study abroad a lot easier if people are flexible, if they are willing to adapt, just step a little outside of their comfort zone.”

Alvarado-Brizuela said she looks up to Vance and learns a lot from her including how to be more organized and keep life in perspective.

“I want to be like her when I grow up,” Alvarado-Brizuela said. “That would be nice.”