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Anna Tybinko

Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Romance Studies



Anna Tybinko is a Ph.D. candidate in Romance Studies, studying modern and contemporary Spanish literature and cultural production. Tybinko received her master’s in Romance Studies from Duke in 2018, and in Social Science Research from the Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca in 2012. She completed her bachelor’s in History with a minor in Spanish and Hispanic studies from Earlham College. She has been a Preparing Future Faculty Fellow (2019-2020), is working on her Certificate in College Teaching, and has received numerous grants and awards. She currently holds a a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship for her dissertation, “Urban Borderlands: African Writers in Precarious Spain, 1985-2008.”

Notably, Tybinko has served as Instructor of Record for seven courses during her time at Duke. These include elementary, intermediate, and advanced Spanish, as well as two of her own upper-level seminars. In 2018, she served as the Assistant Director for DukeEngage in Cabo Verde. Her mentees and students note her passion for teaching, mentoring, and research. She is known for her ability to create an inclusive, equitable environment in the classroom and beyond. She has advocated for better teaching training for graduate students before they take on sole instructor responsibilities and served on a task force within Romance Studies to redistribute graduate student teaching requirements to better meet those goals.


How have you evolved as a teacher compared to when you first started?

I started at Duke after six years of teaching at the primary and secondary level in Brazil, Spain, and inner-city Philadelphia. Coming from that background, I really saw the Ph.D. program not only as a chance to grow as a scholar, but as a teacher as well. From what I could tell as a prospective student, one of the advantages of the Duke program was the wide range of opportunities to enhance my pedagogical skills—both within the Department of Romance Studies and the through The Graduate School. Through specific courses on topics like second language acquisition and syllabus design, I thought a lot about how to truly encourage a learner-centered classroom. And perhaps more importantly, I got to try these ideas out! First, as part of the Spanish Language Program and then by creating and teaching my own courses (within the Department and with the support of a Bass Instructional Fellowship). Thanks to these experiences, I’ve slowly learned how to guide the class rather drive it. I think that’s the most important; providing the tools so that students feel empowered to take charge of their own learning experience.

What resources or strategies have you found to be helpful in your development as a teacher?

Other teachers! And students themselves. Teaching is frankly not a skill you simply acquire and then apply at will; it’s a long learning curve, a self-education. I’m very grateful to my graduate student colleagues, my colleagues in the Spanish Language Program and, above all, my mentor in the Preparing Future Program, Dr. Nina Namaste at Elon University, for always being willing to workshop class materials and course concepts. On top of that, my students are consistently my best resource. I try and implement formal and informal methods of evaluation throughout a course, asking them for feedback as we go. I want them to feel like the experts in what they need. I think of it as my job to learn and adapt accordingly.

What does a successful classroom look like? How do you go about creating such a setting?

Especially in a second language classroom, the course of learning has been a success if students are using the materials to connect with one another—and with the wider world. With teaching you have to be patient. You may not receive external validation in the short term. As someone who works in Border and Migration Studies—fields with immediate and palpable connections to contemporary political and social issues—I know something I did in the classroom was effective when a student gets back in touch to tell me how that’s inspired them to engage in public service, or activism, make a specific career choice, or take on a research project of their own.


Excerpts from Tybinko’s nomination

“Anna has proven to be a voracious learner who is deeply committed to conversations about good teaching that move beyond the what and explore the how and whys of learning.”

“In Anna Tybinko, you have a truly remarkable candidate and the consummate teacher-scholar. Anna’s passion and love of teaching and mentoring have inspired her students inside and outside of the classroom.”

“Anna’s research and teaching push disciplinary boundaries and challenge the confines of area studies, in the effort to carve out a new space in Spanish studies for a plurality of migrant voices. This is a testament to Anna’s orientation as a scholar-teacher activist and her dedication to pursuing questions of social justice through her work.”