<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Devon Hanahan
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School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs (Spanish)
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Popular Prof Seeks Language Appreciation
By William Thompson

If the RateMyProfessors.com website is any indication Spanish professor Devon Hanahan is a student favorite. Maybe her "secret" is that because her students mean so much to her, she means so much to them.

Born into an Air Force family, Hanahan moved around the country until finally settling in Charleston at age 9. She attended Bishop England High School, and then became part of the College of Charleston's Class of 1987. As one of our school's original honors students, Hanahan attended the College with a Presidential Scholarship and graduated magna cum laude.

A math major, Hanahan says she became enamored with speaking the Spanish language after taking a Spanish conversation class. It was the first opportunity she had to speak the language, not solely read and write it on paper.

"Teaching is a calling for me that is true," said Hanahan, who says she has wanted to teach since she was 6. Immediately after graduating from C of C, at age 21, Hanahan began teaching high school.

Moving to Columbia shortly thereafter gave Hanahan the opportunity to earn in a M.A. in Spanish from the University of South Carolina, while teaching at Spring Valley High School.

After moving back to Charleston, Hanahan has taught at the College of Charleston on and off since 1995 and has been a full time professor at the College for the past eight years. Hanahan said teaching at the College "is never boring." Hanahan teaches four sections of Spanish 201 and 202 and she is in charge of all Spanish conversation classes.

"Ultimately I am their teacher," Hanahan said of the 32 sections of one-hour Spanish conversation classes. The Spanish conversation classes parallel Spanish 201 and 202, and are proctored by Spanish majors, who are trained and closely supervised by Hanahan. Overall, Hanahan is responsible for the Spanish education of over 400 students.

At the center of her love for teaching are Hanahan's students. Photos of her students adorn her office door. Her office is covered with pictures, notes and mementos from students that she has had over the years, and her drawers are filled with candies, chocolates, vitamins and whatever else her students might need.

She urges all of her students to come talk to her if they are feeling stressed, homesick or overwhelmed, and even offers her own house as a sanctuary from the pressures college can bring. Hanahan even offers a spot at her dinner table to students who are just plain hungry. "My sister said, 'you're always feeding college kids!'"

"I am the exact same person in class, as I am out of class," Hanahan said about her students-come-first attitude. "What I love about teaching Spanish, what I enjoy the most, is when a student says to me, 'I used to hate Spanish, now I like it, now I want to really learn Spanish,' that's my great reward."

Hanahan hopes to give students the same passion for learning the Spanish language that was instilled in her after taking her first Spanish conversation class at the College of Charleston. Anonymous comments by College of Charleston students on the popular website, RateMyProfessors.com, attest to Hanahan's ability to give her students love for learning Spanish."A sampling of comments: "She makes me want to learn Spanish, and I've always hated it," and "She has made me want to minor in Spanish.

Hanahan's ratings by her College of Charleston students were so positive on that website that in 2007 she made its Top 50 list of highest rated professors in America.

Hanahan describes her teaching methods as "unconventional." She will act out conversations and make silly phonetic associations between Spanish and English words, for example. Most importantly, Hanahan pushes her students to speak out in class. "The prize is the communication, for students to go out and be able to use what they learned," Hanahan says.

Hanahan's "unconventional" teaching is very effective at teaching Spanish, and extremely well received by College of Charleston students, enough so to earn Hanahan the No. 2 highest rating, of all rated professors in United States, according to ratemyprofessor.com.

"Devon Hanahan consistently does an outstanding job, she is above and beyond a great teacher," said Dr. Joe Weyers, chair of the Department of Hispanic Studies. "She is an enthusiastic person, and she brings that enthusiasm to the classroom."

The only thing Devon Hanahan puts above her students is her family. Hanahan spends every chance she gets with her husband and two sons. "I get to that first, because time is going so fast," said Hanahan about spending time with her family, "then it's laundry, the dishes, or whatever else."

Hanahan, who "loves to travel but loathes to fly," recently took a group of students to Trujillo, Spain.

While not so comfortable seated on a jetliner, she's more at ease seated at Carolina First Arena. "I don't miss any of the CofC home basketball games," said Hanahan, an avid sports fan, "ESPN is on at our house 24/7."

Hanahan was awarded Faculty Sports Fan of the Year in 2007.

She plans to pursue her doctorate after her two sons graduate from high school.