Ashlee S. Balena

October 12, 2021

Ashlee S. Balena ’95, a senior lecturer in Spanish since 2008, said the ideal way to learn a world language is to jump on a plane and immerse yourself in the language and culture.

“The next best way is to surround yourself with people who speak the language here at home – listen to music and watch your favorite movies or series in the target language. Input, input, input!” she said.

The next best way may be to let her teach you. She was recently awarded the 2021 Foreign Language Association of North Carolina Teacher of the Year Award (Higher Education). Fully versed in online and in-person teaching, her online courses won the Excellence in eLearning award for best online learning in 2015 and 2019. She was the recipient of the 2017 Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Award.

“Learning a world language online has its challenges and is not for everyone,” she said. Students who are motivated and plug away at the work a little each day can be very successful. “As it is with learning a musical instrument to learning to drive a car, practice is key no matter what the format.”

Because of an autoimmune disease, Balena is currently only teaching online, but plans to be back in person in the spring. She is appreciative of the flexibility UNCW has given her. She was able to bring her office home and has created an online class community through partnered video assignments, discussion boards and Zoom classes. As her Zoom linked email signature promises, she’s “just a click away.”

-- Caroline Cropp