Margherita Tortora, Spanish and Portuguese, Fall 2021

I feel privileged to be a part of the Teaching Relief for Learning (TRL) program this semester (Fall 2021). As a Yale student advisor for the past 28 years, I have often expressed to

my advisees that I envy them for being able to register for such a great variety of interesting courses. I would thumb through the Blue Book (when it was physical) and daydream about a time when I would have a chance to sit in on some of the Yale College courses. That was simply impossible while teaching a full load. With the Teaching Relief for Learning program, I was finally able to attend a marvelous course taught by Prof. Claudia Valeggia that has long caught my eye, Anthropology 230: Evolutionary Biology of Women’s Reproductive Lives. It is a superb course, not only because of the content, but also because of Claudia’s unique teaching skills. She really knows how to connect with the students. Although the topic of the course is very different from the courses I teach for the Spanish Department, I am learning lessons from it that I have already begun to implement in my own classes. I am an older woman who has children and grandchildren, but I am ashamed to say that there was quite a lot about women’s reproductive lives of which I had no knowledge. Some of the films and literary texts I use for my classes deal with gender issues, and I now feel better prepared to include some of the scientific knowledge that I am gaining this semester when we examine these works in class. I wanted to be a biology major when I was in high school, and I worked as a volunteer for two years in Dr. Poulson’s genetics lab at Kline Biology tower when I was 15-17 years old. However, in college, my interests changed and I moved more towards literature. I have always regretted not studying anthropology, because it is an area that fascinates me. Claudia’s course combines both of these interests. I very much enjoy being a student again, and sharing the experience with our brilliant Yale undergraduates. They accept me as one of them in class, during group discussions, and even in performing a skit for the class. Claudia’s empathy and kindness towards her students resonates with me. I know that observing her has made me a better teacher. The TRL is a truly unique opportunity, and I am very grateful to have been able to participate in it this semester.