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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

Nadine Sinno


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes Nadine Sinno, assistant professor of Foreign Languages and Literatures, for her contributions towards developing and teaching proficiency-based Arabic courses, mentoring students, and helping establish an Arabic Minor. Dr. Sinno’s belief in the inseparability of language, literature, and culture informs her teaching pedagogy and curriculum development approach.

In her language teaching, Dr. Sinno follows a proficiency-based approach that emphasizes the communicative aspect of language. She creates class activities that require students to employ new words and grammatical concepts in memorable contexts. For example, learning the Arabic future tense often translates into a class activity that requires “reading the coffee grounds and predicting the future” of classmates, and learning directions could very well lead to an in-class treasure hunt. She also employs literary and cultural material such as poems, newspapers, music videos, and film clips as supplemental material to the Arabic textbook. By establishing the minor in Arabic, Dr. Sinno has given Virginia Tech graduates an advantage when pursing higher education in Arabic/Middle East Studies or careers in various capacities within the U.S. government, non-profit organizations, domestic and international law firms, and global businesses.

In her Arabic Literature in Translation class, she strives to make Arabic literature more accessible to students by drawing connections across Western and non-Western literatures, cultures and traditions. As a literary translator and native-speaker of Arabic, she is especially cognizant of the complexity of translating, interpreting, and packaging Arabic literature, so she makes sure to impart this sense of attentiveness to her students by illuminating the similarities and differences between the original and English texts. After the novels have been discussed rigorously, the literature class often becomes a platform for the creative application of knowledge: students might reenact a scene from a novel or provide a collaborative, modern-day adaptation of a text. They might host a “town meeting” of the novel’s protagonists and write monologues that allow characters to defend their actions. Students also create their own alternative endings to novels, thus demonstrating their knowledge of characterization and their own writing prowess. In a peer-observation, a senior faculty member wrote, “Dr. Sinno provided the students with a variety of interesting activities that held their attention during the full 75 minutes of class. The professor maintained a relaxed environment that promoted student participation…Dr. Sinno’s skills as an experienced teacher of Arabic were clear from the beginning to the end of the class.”

Dr. Sinno’s love for teaching Arabic has led her to co-author an online Lebanese textbook titled, Haki bil-Libnani: Lebanese Arabic Online Textbook and Companion Website to Al-kitaab Part One (Georgetown University Press, 2014). She also enjoys mentoring students beyond the classroom. Her students have won prestigious scholarships including the Boren Scholarship, which offers students up to $20,000 to study Arabic in an immersive environment in the Middle East. In a “thank-a-teacher” note, one of her students wrote, “Thank you so much for continuing to have faith in our Advanced Arabic class! You have not only pushed me to continue studying Arabic but you have motivated me to really put 110% into everything I do in and out the classroom. I really appreciate all your guidance and help these past few years.” Another student wrote, “I cannot thank you enough for all the encouragement and guidance the past two years. Thanks to you I am pursuing careers in foreign policy where I can utilize my Arabic language and Arab culture skills.” Dr. Sinno believes that teaching—like learning—is a collaborative project. She benefits from the advice of her mentors, colleagues, and students. She uses traditional methods that have survived the test of time as well as new, innovative methods that appeal to a younger generation of students, whose worlds and worldviews are undeniably altered by new technologies and changing sociopolitical realities.


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