2023 Sherrie & Daryl Parker Faculty Award | Peter Monahan
Yakima Valley College selected Spanish Instructor Peter Monahan as the 2023 recipient of the Sherrie & Daryl Parker Faculty Award.
Not many people find their passion in the first grade, but that is not the case for Monahan. Monahan, who grew up in Toppenish, was enrolled at a young age in a dual language classroom, an experience he believes changed the trajectory of his life.
“My teacher, Jan Esquivel, introduced me to the Aztec civilization, we learned about the Spanish conquest of the Americas and immigration in the U.S., all while in the 1st grade.”
Monahan took this seed and continued to learn and grow, earning a bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies from Western Washington University. During his undergraduate studies, he also had the opportunity to travel extensively in Mexico and Central America and spent time studying in Barcelona, Spain and Guanajuato, Mexico. He also worked as a paraprofessional with the Toppenish School District.
“This experience was triggering for me,” said Monahan. “Working under teachers I was able to lead instruction in the classroom and got very comfortable with it. When students faced a learning challenge with Spanish language acquisition it occurred to me that I could do this, I could teach that.”
He began teaching English Language Acquisition courses at YVC in the early 1990s while also working on film projects alongside Anthropology Instructor Eric Anderson for the Workforce Education Division and capturing historical campus events including visits from Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks and Shirley Chisolm. He later relocated to the Portland area and spent several years teaching Spanish at a small public high school, making films through his company Zelig Films and coaching soccer.
After earning his master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Portland State University, Monahan returned to the Yakima Valley and began coaching YVC’s women’s soccer team in 2012. In 2014 he began working in YVC’s Modern Languages Department as an adjunct instructor and, in 2015, was hired for a full-time position.
“It feels great to work with colleagues in a collaborative environment. Every week we are meeting and discussing how we can make our program better for students.” — Peter Monahan
“I love teaching every day at YVC,” says Monahan. “Our community provides a unique environment — with many speaking a mix of Spanish and English often referred to as Spanglish. I love to teach the evolution of the Spanish language over centuries and be able to tie it with the language spoken in the Yakima Valley. Showing that this language isn’t inferior and that’s it’s just an example of language evolution helps give validity to our students and I feel recognizing that empowers their voices.”
He is known by his students for helping motivate them toward future learning. Jason Taylor is one student who was especially impacted by Monahan.
“I originally took Spanish just as a class to fill my credits but have since been guided [by Monahan] to spend more time learning it,” said Taylor. “He is very humorous and keeps the class light and focused. He is super understanding and cares for all his students. Even though he has the dilemma of working with students with different levels of Spanish knowledge he still makes sure all students are learning every day. There has never been an instructor that has helped me as much.”
Monahan also actively looks for opportunities to work with fellow faculty to help improve YVC’s programs.
“It feels great to work with colleagues in a collaborative environment. Every week we are meeting and discussing how we can make our program better for students. I’m still incorporating information I’ve learned early on and feel that my experiences all become part of my textbook and help enrich the classroom experience for my students,” says Monahan.
Earlier this year Monahan also had the opportunity for a sabbatical which provided time to travel throughout South America and intensively practice the art of navigating language and dialects — something he teaches daily in his first- and second-year Spanish courses.
The award provides recognition to a full-time faculty member who, through extraordinary interactions and personal influence, motivates students toward greater academic and personal achievement. The selection is made by a committee from nominations submitted by students. Established by longtime supporters of the college, Sherrie and Daryl Parker, this is a $2,500 unrestricted monetary award.