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Couple Tag Teams to Teach Foreign Language Online

Jennifer and Scott Despain are partners in life but also partners when it comes to teaching Spanish to NC State Online and Distance Education students.

Scott started teaching at NC State in 1993.

“I enjoy seeing people learn new things. And as an instructor, I continue to learn as well. Specifically in our field, learning a new language opens up opportunities in many aspects of a person’s life,” Scott said.

In addition to learning from students, one of Scott’s greatest accomplishments is working with other faculty to train and prepare graduate teaching assistants to successfully enter the profession.

As a married couple, Jennifer and Scott Despain have become a team both at home and within their careers. They currently co-teach FLS 101: Elementary Spanish I for online students.

Jennifer started teaching at NC State in 2001. When asked why she enjoys teaching, she referenced a quote by Helen Keller, “There is nothing more beautiful, I think, than the evanescent fleeting images and sentiments presented by a language one is just becoming familiar with — ideas that flit across the mental sky, shaped and tinted by capricious fancy.”

Being a part of that process is thrilling for the couple.

“Broadening minds and encouraging in-depth understanding, witnessing the development of a more well-rounded individual who is more understanding of other’s points of view is really satisfying,” Jennifer explained.

In 2004, the couple started collaborating to teach the online course FLS 101-601.

Our specific course is very time consuming so we caution students to take a good look at their personal schedule to make sure they are realistic in how much time they have to dedicate to learning another language,” Jennifer said.

The Despains encourage their students to take the opportunity to work ahead so they never get behind. Their best advice — establish a relationship with the instructor, whether it be through email, Skype or some other appropriate method. Jennifer says this helps humanize the online experience.

“I love hearing from students who are so excited about a positive real-world experience with their newly acquired language skills. I know students have really learned when they take their classroom knowledge and immediately find ways to incorporate it into their lives,” Jennifer said.

Jennifer’s number one priority is family, so students in their online course should not be surprised if they get a glimpse into the Despain’s personal lives and meet their four children via personally recorded videos they use in the the course.

In addition to teaching online students at NC State, Scott and Jennifer both enjoy being involved in the Hispanic community through their leadership roles in their church. They also love traveling and being in nature, specifically kayaking, hiking, biking or spending a relaxing day on one of North Carolina’s many beaches.