Jesus Toapanta

Toapanta spotlight


My name is Jesús Toapanta and I was born in the middle of the world, literally (Quito-Ecuador). My mother gave me this awesome name 'Jesús' because she thought I was not going to make it. She said I was a tiny bag of skin and bones. My last name is special too. It is an indigenous name and reminds me of the indigenous woman who raised me as her own son. She lives in my heart and I am grateful she took me into her family.
I grew up in the country side surrounded by mountains and trees. I would spend hours playing with the dogs and throwing pebbles in the river. I started working when I was 10 and I have not been able to stop working since then. I have worked at many different places, but the most wonderful jobs were those that involved teaching. During my teenage years, I taught math and waited tables. After I graduated from High School, I was offered a job as a teacher at local English institute. I successfully managed working at this institute while studying at the university. I wanted to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, but for a good reason I ended up with a B.A. in Education. I also went to Ohio University and completed an M.A. in Linguistics. In Ecuador, I have worked at two universities, Salesian Polytechnic University (UPS) and Pontifical Catholic University (PUCE). At UPS, I taught language courses; and, in the Department of Linguistics at PUCE, I taught courses in language pedagogy, linguistics, second language acquisition, translation, among others.
At the University of Alberta, I completed a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics in the Department of Modern Language and Cultural Studies. I have been teaching Spanish in this Department for some time now. I very much enjoy teaching Spanish. I love to interact with my students and share what I know about the language and culture of Latin America. I have met incredible people in this country. It's been very exciting to be in Canada.

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is how challenging it gets when you try to explain something from the perspective of your students. You need to come up with congruent explanations that make sense in the mind of your students. So, I need to be able to see things from different perspectives and come up with meaningful examples that trigger understanding and promote learning. I think this is what makes teaching interesting. I love the laughs and the ideas we share in the classroom.

What's the last book you read and loved?

I am currently reading a statistics book by Andy Field. It is hilarious and I enjoy it pretty much.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I would definitely travel to the land of dinosaurs. It is the place where my little buddy and I created a magical world filled with treasured memories. But if I get to save money someday, I would like to visit the Galápagos Islands. This is the place in my home country that I have not been to yet. I want to feel what it is like to be in an island, surrounded by the species that inspired Charles Darwin.

What three words best describe your experience as a teacher?

I think empathy, trust, and confidence. I just can't stand in front of my students and start lecturing without paying attention to their needs or concerns. I often see my kids reflected in my students, so I treat them with respect, consideration, and give them opportunities to grow personally and intellectually. I trust them and instill confidence because this is who I am.

What is your favorite word in Spanish?

Although not a Spanish word, I like the word 'achachay' [aʧa'ʧai]. It is a Quichua word used to express cold and/or chill. It frequently comes to my mind during the winter months. I do not think I have a favorite word in Spanish. I love the way the language sounds. I like the colorful contrasts of the different Spanish dialects. It is just awesome.