Looking at 37-year-old Alvaro Castro Rivadeneira, or Professor Castro, as he is called by his students here at Springfield College, one would not know of his diverse, cosmopolitan background. Wire-rimmed glasses frame a pair of intellectual eyes, and dark hair sits neatly groomed atop his head. Tan skin is clothed by a clean button down shirt and he wears a ring on his left hand. When he speaks, Castro has a light accent indicative of his South American heritage, but is clearly fluent in English.
Castro is originally from Ecuador, but moved to both Miami and Puerto Rico at a very young age, where he learned English. Growing up, Castro had always been interested in tutoring friends with English and helping them with math, so he completed his undergraduate studies in Montreal, Canada. Afterwards, he lived in South Africa for one year.
Though he says Spanish is his first language, most of his academic career has been taught to him in English. “I actually, for academic purposes, usually think in English more than Spanish,” Castro said.
He is currently learning French, hoping to become a multilingual speaker to broaden his ability to communicate with more people. Castro also says that he has learned a bit of Nepali and Macedonian from his travels. Knowing an array of languages has served him well throughout his travels.
“It makes a huge difference when you’re in other countries and you know the language,” said Castro.
Castro is a father to 7-year-old twin girls, who currently live in Guatemala with his wife, who is originally from New Hampshire. While the distance is far, it does not stop him from doing all that he can to be the best father possible to them.
Although Castro speaks a number of languages, and his wife currently lives in Central America, their children’s primary language is English.
“We were living in sort of diplomatic circles in the embassy community, and their mom speaks only in English, I only speak to them in Spanish, but it’s been an effort for them to learn… it helps that they live in Guatemala now [to learn Spanish],” Castro said.
Ready for a new change of pace, Castro moved to Springfield College to take on his teaching position for General Microbiology and Lab, Virology and Immunology, and Biology. Though it is not his first college teaching position, it is his first in the United States.
Castro’s teaching style speaks to learners of the visual, aural, verbal, social, and logical variety. He implements detailed slideshows into his lessons that describe exactly what the lesson is about, along with large charts and videos.
The videos he chooses for his lessons are chock full of information displayed in a visually pleasing context, making it easy for students to memorize the content. Castro calls on his students throughout the class to answer benchmark questions he puts up on the slides, ensuring that his students are understanding the lesson and pausing to go into even more detail if there is a misunderstanding.
His teaching strategies have developed over the course of his extensive teaching experiences, which has provided an incredibly insightful understanding of how students learn.
“I was teaching mostly in Ecuador, some additional teaching in Canada and Guatemala, but at the university level mostly in Ecuador,” he said. “In Ecuador I taught biochemistry and general chemistry. I also taught math at a small arts college for a period [of time], and I taught English in Guatemala, and also a biochemistry lab.”
Though he has taught many different subjects, Castro is most passionate about the sciences. He enjoys the way the students are organized and polite during his classes, which help them to grasp his scientific concepts easily, therefore benefitting all members of the classroom.
However, teaching has not been his only profession. Castro worked in the State Department of Public Affairs in Guatemala most recently before coming to Springfield College, while his wife worked in Foreign Services. Because of his wife’s occupation, the family has been “travelling the world quite a bit,” according to Castro.
“With USAID [United States Agency for International Development], we have been in Guatemala most recently, in Nepal in Asia, before that in Macedonia in Southeastern Europe. And before that, we lived in Ecuador, and that is where [my wife and I] met and married,” he explained.
Though Castro is invested in his wife’s career, he was ready for “something more academic” and applied for the job here in Springfield.
Julie Smist, Springfield College’s Biology/Chemistry Department Chair, was enthusiastic about the newest addition to her staff.
“I think he is a great addition to our department… he was the most qualified person who applied,” Smist said. “He was living in Guatemala at the time, so we did a Skype interview and I found him to have a very pleasant demeanor.”
Smist was also pleased to see how Castro’s various accomplishments were going to be helpful for both his teaching and students, in his new profession.
“Many of the students who take Microbiology and Immunology and Virology, the courses he is teaching this fall, want to pursue careers in the medical field…. [This includes] med school, PA, or PT grad school. Dr. Castro has an MD and can best relate to them,” she said. “In the spring, he will be teaching Medical Micro and a second section of Virology and Immunology, plus Biochemistry. Again, he is most qualified as his undergrad major at McGill University was Biochemistry.”
Given his attributes and overall good attitude towards the job, Castro is seen as a significant positive addition to Springfield College’s campus and faculty members.