Lecturer Israel Fernando Herrera remains a faithful, and busy, member of the IU and Bloomington community
Feb. 27, 2014
Israel Fernando Herrera has a 1-year-old baby, a 12-year-old son, a 16-year-old daughter, a full-time lecturer position at IU Bloomington’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, and multiple campus and citywide projects. The former soccer player from Bucaramanga, Colombia, barely has time to sleep, but he’s OK with that.
A favorite among students in IU’s Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Herrera was recently appointed president of the Indiana chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, which promotes the teaching and study of the two languages.
During Herrera’s 2014-16 term, he plans to work with the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana General Assembly to incorporate the Seal of Biliteracy in the state’s public schools. The seal recognizes high school students’ proficiency in a second language by including a gold stamp on transcripts and diplomas as a statement of accomplishment for prospective employers and colleges. Currently, California, New York and Illinois are the only states in the U.S. that give students the option of the Seal of Biliteracy following high school graduation.
Herrera knew he loved teaching his native language when he took a teaching methods course as an undergraduate college student at the Industrial University of Santander in Colombia. After earning his bachelor’s in teaching foreign languages and literature, he came to the U.S. in 2003 as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant at South Dakota State University.
Although Herrera earned a master’s degree in Hispanic literature from the University of Iowa, he wanted to study a subject related to Latin America that could include literature, cinema and human rights.
“The best program in the U.S. that could fulfill my interests at that time was the IU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies,” said Herrera, who earned a second master’s degree at IU Bloomington.
Teaching courses in Spanish conversation, Latin American film and even Spanish-language at the Kelley School of Business, Herrera is involved with a number of campus groups outside the classroom.
In 2011, he organized IU Bloomington’s first Spanish and Portuguese Song Festival, where a selected group of students perform musical solos or duets in Spanish or Portuguese. He’s also performed with Grupo de Teatro, Vision, Identity, Drama and Art, playing a number of lead roles in Spanish-language plays. He is currently the faculty advisor for VIDA.
Since 2011, Herrera has served as president of the City of Bloomington’s Commission on Hispanic and Latino affairs, advocating for Spanish-language courses in Monroe County elementary schools. He also hosts a weekly program on Bloomington Community Radio, called “Hola Bloomington,” for which he won a 2012 Avant-Garde Award for his radio segment “Un Cafecito Con …”
Despite Herrera’s busy schedule, his favorite project is simply teaching Spanish to students who are excited about learning the language.
“Teaching Spanish is not just this 50-minute class; it’s more than that,” he said. “I try to motivate my students to learn the language not just for the semester, but to continue learning and to go overseas and experience the culture and interact with people.”