Behind the chalk
by Cassie Hawrysh
Have you ever found yourself walking down the hallway on the main floor in the Language Institute, just after 9:20 a.m., and wondered where that catchy upbeat salsa music was coming from? Well, wonder no more! That music is coming from classroom 133, the class is Spanish 100 and the instructor is Li McLeod.
This reporter discovered the side of a teacher many students do not take the time to see: the adventurous traveler, the mother of two, the lover of Spanish cuisine and the color blue (which she wears almost everyday), and the avid fan of “The Queen of Salsa,” by Celia Cruz.
Upon her completion of high school here in Regina, McLeod opted out of heading straight into university and instead chose to travel. Not unlike many teenagers, she did not have a car and she wasn’t about to borrow one or even take the bus, so she did the next best thing.
“The first trip I took after high school was to Vancouver Island. This was trip with a friend, [with whom] I was teaching piano at the time. We hitchhiked the whole way–we had a great time.”
Consequently, she found this lifestyle so much to her liking that she continued to hitchhike all over Canada, and even across the United States. At some point in there, she ended up traveling through Mexico and, ironically, although she had never had any interest in the language before, she discovered Spanish and immediately fell in love with it. This triggered a chain of events, which led to her becoming the Spanish instructor she is today.
Although, as McLeod explained, she was never a big fan of high school, once she became motivated in Spanish and she picked up classes at the University of Saskatchewan, she developed into an excellent student.
“At one point I got permission to do independent study for a semester, although I think I ended up staying in Mexico for a whole year. Independent study just meant that I registered in classes at the U of S but did all the work on my own from Mexico,” said McLeod.
Eventually, although her career choice was not clear until later, she ended up with a double honours degree in Spanish and French. Shortly thereafter, she discovered her knack for teaching and attained her degree in education and her masters in Ottawa.
Having taught in Ottawa, Saskatoon and now in Regina, McLeod finds the class sizes here at the U of R much more to her liking. All the same, though, she offers some advice to all those currently taking, or thinking of studying, a language.
“With a language class the practical practice is absolutely crucial, every day, every day. Organization is about 80 per cent of a good student, and the students who do badly are the ones who are not making the time.”
Finally, McLeod offers this advice to all current students here at the U of R: “Upon coming to university, it is important to know that it is hard. Your preparation may not be the best, and if this is the case, then you need to get on it right away.
“It seems to me that there is an across the board idea that a university degree is required to have a good life, and certainly there are many students who do belong here, but you choose how to go about developing your life and you should certainly know all the options out there. University is a decision you make, not just something you do. Think about why you are here, and if you are in fact here for all the right reasons, then make the most of it–every single day!”