skip to main content

College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

John R. Gutiérrez Named UM Humanities Teacher of the Year

Honoree to present lecture in linguistics Nov. 9 on campus


College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council have named John R. Gutiérrez, Croft professor of Spanish, as the university’s Humanities Teacher of the Year.

Gutiérrez joined the UM faculty in 2000 to teach and mentor students with the Croft Institute for International Studies and to develop Spanish-language instruction in Mississippi as a form of outreach.

In celebration of the award, Gutiérrez will present a lecture on “Untapping a Linguistic Resource: Teaching Spanish as a Heritage Language in the United States” at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 in Bryant Hall, Room 209. A Q&A session and reception will follow the lecture.

“Dr. Gutiérrez has been an exceptional teacher on the faculty of the Department of Modern Languages for many years, an educator who has demonstrated throughout his career that he puts his students first and who offers the highest quality education for those around him,” said Donald Dyer, UM chair and professor of modern languages.

“He has worked steadfastly to improve the teaching of Spanish not only for students at the University of Mississippi but also through K-12 in the state itself.”

From 2000 to 2007, he worked with the National Foreign Language Center to secure grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Foreign Language Assistance Program to implement Spanish language programs for elementary students in school districts across Mississippi. Since then, Gutiérrez has also worked with the UM Office of Study Abroad to establish international studies programs in Spain, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

“Anytime I walk across campus, I see my colleagues in other departments quietly toiling away at their jobs,” Gutiérrez said. “They impart their knowledge and their passion for their specific area of expertise, never seeking any recognition for doing what they love.

“I have done this at Ole Miss for several years now, and the award came not only as a big surprise, but it served to recognize that the university and the College of Liberal Arts have appreciated my attempts to instill my students with the passion for linguistics and the Spanish and Portuguese languages that I have cultivated over my long career.”

Each year since 1995, the award has been given to a humanities scholar at each of the state’s institutions of higher learning. The criteria include excellence of classroom instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.

More than 70 percent of the students Gutiérrez has mentored have achieved an advanced score on the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview before graduation. His research focus includes exploring the factors that hinder American students from achieving high levels of proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese.

Andrew Hayes, a junior from Saltillo majoring in international studies, struggled with Spanish in high school, but after spending a year learning with Gutierrez, he’s traveled to Spanish-speaking countries without using English.

“None of this would have been possible without Dr. Gutiérrez’s clear instruction, simple breakdown of complex ideas and, most importantly, his enduring patience with his students,” Hayes said. “Every time Dr. Gutiérrez steps into the classroom, you know that he is just bursting to teach anyone who will listen everything he knows about Spanish, and that energy is infectious among the students.

“He has not only taught me how to speak another language, but he has opened up a whole new world of experiences and opportunities for me. That, more than anything else, is the gift that Dr. Gutiérrez has given to me in his Spanish class, and I think any of his students would agree that he has earned his recognition for excellence many times over.”

Gutiérrez earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico State University and his doctorate in romance languages from the University of New Mexico. Before his arrival at the Croft Institute in 2000, he served as director of the Basic Language Program at the University of Virginia, director of undergraduate studies and associate professor of Spanish linguistics at Penn State University and director of the Spanish for Heritage Learners Program at the University of Arizona.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, he was invited as a distinguished visiting professor to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he consulted faculty on their Spanish language program and created a Spanish for Heritage Learners course at the academy.