Michelle Geoffrion-Vinci did not always want to be a teacher.
“When I started college, I majored in economics and Spanish with the idea of becoming some sort of international financier,” says the associate professor of foreign languages and literatures.
It was not until Geoffrion-Vinci served as a teaching assistant for a Spanish class that she really considered the idea of teaching. “I took a class in foreign language teaching methods and I was hooked. After that, I looked for every teaching opportunity I could find and have been doing so ever since,” she says.
Her work has paid off. Geoffrion-Vinci has received the Teacher of the Year Award at the College/University Level from the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP).
“AATSP is a wonderful organization whose members are passionate, committed, actively engaged teachers and scholars of Spanish language and Hispanic literatures and cultures,” says Geoffrion-Vinci, who has been a member of AATSP for 17 years. “It’s a sincere pleasure to share this profession with them, and I’m grateful for the many things I’ve learned from them through my affiliation with AATSP.”
Growing up with her mother who taught English and her French-speaking grandparents, Geoffrion-Vinci was introduced to the world of languages as a young child. She became specifically interested in Spanish as a teenager.
“In high school, when I first had the opportunity to choose, I wanted to branch out and explore a language that was different from the ones I grew up around,” she says. “I was first drawn to Spanish for its musicality, and for its prevalence in the jazz we listened to at home.”
In college she was attracted to the languages, literatures, and diverse cultures of Spain and studied there during her junior year. The study abroad experience was the first time she thought about becoming a Spanish professor.
Geoffrion-Vinci joined Lafayette’s faculty in 1998. She came to the College because it is a small undergraduate-only institution with a strong tradition in the liberal arts.
“Liberal arts education is so important because it challenges us to be thinkers first, to read between the lines and to approach difficult questions and problems from multiple perspectives,” she says. “A really good education in liberal arts helps us to recognize that the world is vast and that to understand our place in it we have to engage with people whose geographical, historical, political, and cultural realities differ from our own.”
Geoffrion-Vinci received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University and her A.B. from Wellesley College, a school that she has found similar to Lafayette. “I wanted to be part of the same kind of living/learning community as a professional, to take my own resoundingly positive educational experience and ‘pay it forward,’” she explains.
At Lafayette, she specializes in contemporary literature of Spain, applied linguistics, and language-teaching methodologies with emphasis on Spanish for heritage speakers. Her current areas of literary research interest include contemporary Hispanic poetries, Spanish women writers from 1800 to the present, and the contemporary Spanish novel. Geoffrion-Vinci serves as the faculty adviser to Lafayette’s chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society, and to the Heritage of Latin America student living group on campus.
She is the author of the textbook ¡Sí se puede! Un curso transicional para hispanoparlantes nativos [Yes You Can! An Transitional Course for Native Speakers of Spanish] (2008), and Between the Maternal Aegis and the Abyss: Woman as Symbol in the Poetry of Rosalía de Castro (2002). She received Lafayette’s Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Lecture Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Teaching and the Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching and Service.
“If I accomplish nothing more as an educator, I hope to inspire my students to learn as I have and continue to be inspired,” she says. “Lafayette has been and continues to be a wonderful place to call home. I’m proud to be a part of this community and its evolving educational mission.”