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Rachel Nisselson

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Head of Classical & Modern Languages Department (French and Spanish)
Faculty member since 2013
B.A. Amherst College, Major in French
Ph.D. Vanderbilt University, French Literature, Minor in Spanish

What drew you to Loomis?

The breadth and depth of Loomis’s Modern and Classical Languages Department is very attractive. We teach five languages here and our courses range from beginning to quite advanced. The possibility of teaching two languages and working with a variety of students, for me, is very exciting. Loomis students and faculty are also very lucky to have a number of trips abroadfrom which to choose.

How did you develop a love for language?

My mom used to say certain phrases in French to me as a child and later, once I’d started studying French, we used to watchFrench in Action — an instructional French series — together. As a student in high school, I used to listen to my Latino friends speak to one another in Spanish and loved when I could surprise them by figuring out what they were discussing (at that point, my guesses were all based on context). Travelling overseas and being able to speak to people in their native language has opened many doors for me.

What has been a transformational moment for you in teaching language?

After studying foreign language teaching methods and second language acquisition research at Vanderbilt, I reshaped many of my practices. The way I teach language now is in line with what current research has to say about how people learn languages.

What is your favorite place you’ve traveled to and why?

This is such a hard question! Here are some highlights from various travels abroad:

  • In 1998 I lived with a wonderful Parisian family while studying at the Sorbonne. Years later, I am still in touch with this family and have visited them multiple times.
  • I chaperoned a study and service abroad trip to Costa Rica and loved the mixture of hard physical work, the opportunity to learn about ecotourism and sustainability, and the pleasures of dancing salsa and eating tropical fruits!
  • I met some wonderful people while chaperoning a trip to Tangier, Morocco, including a brilliant engineering professor and one of the few Jews remaining in the city.