- Lieber Memorial Teaching Associate Award (2013)
Amina Butoyi Shabani initially set out to become an economist, but along the way discovered that she was more drawn to becoming a storyteller in another way and another language— Spanish. “Even though I loved my major, most of my courses were very theoretical and lacked the hands-on experience that I gained in my internships,” she recalls about her studies at Suffolk University. “As a writer of short stories, I am heavily drawn to the act of storytelling, particularly the choice of words used to describe one’s world and individual artistic expression. I am deeply indebted to this creative process as I guide my students to find their own voices in a foreign language,” she adds.
In 2012, Shabani was selected from more than 90 people to receive the Outstanding Associate Instructor Award in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at IU Bloomington. “Amina is a promising young scholar and a truly outstanding educator. Her rich and diverse cultural and intellectual background gives her a cosmopolitan perspective and an open-minded attitude that complement well both her studies and teaching practice,” says Alejandro Mejias-Lopez, associate professor of Spanish. Shabani has lived and studied in Africa, Europe, and across the United States and has worked for a nongovernmental organization, collaborated with and assisted African filmmakers and novelists, and translated Zimbabwean author Blessing Musariri’s work from English to French. She also knows Portuguese, Swahili, Kirundi, Italian, Kinyarwanda, and Wolof. Mejias-Lopez noted that these experiences and attributes point to an intellectually curious person who brings that quality to her teaching.
In her course Spanish in the Business World, Shabani’s students were expected to do much more than simply memorize vocabulary and idiomatic business expressions. She designed a project in which students launched a fictitious business in a Spanish-speaking country and developed its plan. “Thanks to Amina’s passion and overall teaching style, I have begun to seek a deeper understanding in all my learning endeavors instead of focusing on surface-level content,” says one of her students, Eric Burns. “It is now my hope to experience conducting business in a Spanish-speaking country, as I feel that I am equipped to do so.” “The way she organized the course was genius,” adds another former student, Bethany Muncy. “We learned concepts and immediately put them to use by creating our own company, blog, and product. It was intimidating, but a very good experience.”
Dimaris Barrios Beltran, a lecturer at Amherst College and a former classmate, says one of Shabani’s best qualities is her dedication to her work. “I believe that one of the reasons her students love her is because she is extremely organized and well prepared during class,” Beltran says. “Another great quality of Amina is her kindness and spirituality with not only her students, but also her co-workers. “All of her colleagues, including me, can only admire the way she approaches people, and how she makes everybody feel that there is a better future waiting for each of us.”