Cinthia López forms special bond with Spanish students at Newman

Aug 18, 2022
Newman adjunct Cinthia López helps seminarian Kobe Nguyen mix the paper-mâché for the birthday piñatas.

As the second oldest of eight children, Cinthia López has natural leadership abilities.

She also has an incredible drive and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional Francisco Morazán in her native Honduras at the age of 19.

Now López is sharing her unique gifts and spirit with Newman University. This past summer, she started teaching as an adjunct professor and co-taught a Spanish course with Sonja Bontrager for seminarians.

Cinthia López, Newman University adjunct professor (Courtesy photo)
Cinthia López, Newman University adjunct professor (Courtesy photo)

“When I talk about this class with my friends and family, I say that’s the best experience teaching in my life,” López said. “The [students] are so special. They have a special heart because they have a smile every day and they are right there ready to catch everything and ask questions.”

López loved the immersive experience she had with the seminarians. They took a walk around campus to practice vocabulary about nature, cooked and enjoyed recipes to learn about Hispanic food, played fun games like pin the tail on the donkey, visited restaurants, had Bible studies and much more — all of which happened while speaking in Spanish.

López shared that not only did she help teach the students, but she also learned from them and Bontrager as well.

“I don’t know if I will have another experience like this one,” she said.

Bontrager added that from the first day of planning for the course, working with López was a great pleasure. She brought many strengths to their collaboration, Bontrager said, including strong professional preparation, rich perspective, cultural sensitivity and insight as well as organizational skills.

“She seamlessly integrated faith and culture and showed remarkable flexibility while working in a group of learners with highly varied proficiencies,” Bontrager shared. “I was grateful for her contributions and look forward to her continued service to students in Newman’s Spanish courses. We are fortunate to have her in our campus community.”

Finding a home at Newman

This fall, López will teach an introductory Spanish course and feels thankful for the opportunity to continue working at the university.

But teaching Spanish was never something López expected to be doing. She was born and raised in Honduras, where she taught second grade before moving to the high school level to teach science. Seven years ago, she moved to the United States.

López attended Wichita State University for her master’s degree in Spanish, where she also worked as a graduate teaching assistant. Then in 2019, she started teaching the language.

“I never thought that teaching Spanish would be so amazing for me because it’s my language,” she said.

Now she loves it because she understands more of the background of the language.

“I feel grateful when the other person wants to learn my language,” she said.

López was drawn to the opportunity to teach at Newman in part because it’s a Catholic institution. She feels it’s important for seminarians to be able to speak Spanish so that they can better serve future parishioners. As the Latino community continues to grow across the diocese and the United States, there is an even greater need for Spanish speakers.

Newman adjunct Cinthia López helps seminarians prepare the birthday piñatas.

López can empathize with students learning a new language.

“When they feel frustrated with the Spanish, I say, I feel frustrated with the English, too,” she said. “I say, I understand how you feel.”

Perhaps what’s most important when learning the language, according to López, is that the students desire the knowledge.

“I know it’s hard when you start doing something different that’s not your culture and not your language, but I say, if you really want, you’re able to do it, because that’s the most important thing,” she said. “I think if they want it, that makes the difference.”

I was grateful for her contributions and look forward to her continued service to students in Newman’s Spanish courses. We are fortunate to have her in our campus community.

Sonja Bontrager, assistant professor of Spanish at Newman University

Earn a minor in Spanish

While earning your Spanish minor, you can expect to take courses including Intermediate Spanish, Spanish Conversation, Spanish Readings, and Spanish Civilization & Culture.