Inspirational teachers in Languages and Cultures

Meet our inspirational teachers and find out how they are preparing our students for the workforce

Professor Kaori Okano

Professor Kaori Okano (pictured above) inspires her students to discover the joy of learning.

A new perspective. I coordinate and teach Asian Studies, Japanese Studies and Japanese language. In these subjects, students learn to identify and appreciate the different ways of seeing the world. As a teacher, I enjoy students’ fresh interpretations of the different societies and cultures they are learning about.

The joy of learning. I try to foster enjoyment of learning, both in terms of the subject content and the process of learning. I also encourage students to have both short term goals, like participating inan exchange study abroad program, and long term goals to motivate their learning. Engaged students tend to achieve more and develop lifelong learning skills essential to their personal and professional lives.

Teaching is a privilege. To be part of a student’s learning journey, to witness their growth, to help them gain new perspectives, and to inspire their joy of learning is incredibly rewarding – to teach is a great privilege.

Dr Stephie Nikoloudis

Dr Stephie Nikoloudis, Lecturer in Modern Greek Studies, says creating a space where students can experiment and make mistakes is essential to language learning.

The Greek connection. I teach Greek language and literature. I also run the three-week overseas study tour, ‘Connecting with Language and Culture in Greece’, which enhances students’ language skills while examining the historical development of Greece and its links with Australia.

I strongly believe in the benefits of language learning. It makes for an overall richer experience of life, personally and professionally. I treasure Australia’s cultural diversity and I am committed to an inclusive, multicultural, and multilingual Australia.

Empowerment and enrichment. My goal is to create a conducive environment for learning where I can empower students to become active and engaged learners. Experimentation and a willingness to make mistakes are key components of the language learning process.

I also remind students that Greek language learning can enrich their lives in ways they may not have considered. It allows us to connect with heritage, explore a new culture and gain a career advantage. It improves our cognitive health and critical thinking, and contributes to our collective wellbeing by reducing the social isolation of older members of our communities.

Cultivating confidence. It is immensely fulfilling to see students progress in their language learning and become confident users of Greek. Exchanging views, learning from one another, and exploring one of the world’s oldest living languages are extremely rewarding aspects of language teaching.

Dr Laura Tolton

Lecturer in Spanish, Dr Laura Tolton, says fostering connection is at the heart of her teaching.

Novice to expert. Spanish has nearly 500 million native speakers and 21 countries, making it the second language in the world (after Mandarin) by number of native speakers. It’s also the second Western language in terms of use on the internet.

I teach students at varying stages of proficiency, from beginners right through to advanced and heritage speakers. We cover subjects about language, film, literature and translation, with the goal of students becoming agile intercultural communicators.

Studying a language means learning about intercultural communication, understanding other worldviews and your own, and practising in every class until you become an agile and flexible communicator. These skills are essential for most professions in Australia, one of the world’s key immigrant nations.

Creative connection. Learning and speaking a different language can put people in a vulnerable space, so it is essential to feel comfortable as you try out communicating in a new way. I work to create a safe space for connection and playing around with language as a way to learn.

I do anything I can to connect with students creatively. This might mean teaching them a song in Spanish, physically acting out what an expression means, or telling stories about myself and my language learning experiences.

I believe that relationships and feelings are extremely important in the learning process because, for me, the most joy happens when students discover their ability to communicate in Spanish and use it.

Find out more about the Department of Languages and Cultures. Visit their website and LinkedIn.