Comics in the Classroom: An interview with Elena Costello, M.A.
Prime Vice intends to bring progressive change to the world through the sequential art medium. Our comics aim to entertain but also to enlighten through our unique tales and collaborative efforts.
In 2016, I created the bilingual comic Saint Love City Funk: Boogie Down Blues, the coming of age story of Santos La Cruz a Latinx musician who discovers a magical fairy in his newly acquired guitar. SLCF is one of the few comics that incorporates Spanglish.
In 2017, in partnership with The Sid Foundation organization we created Lung Girl #2. The Sid Foundation is a non-profit organization that aims to raise funds and bring awareness to lung transplant research. Lung Girl was created as a way to teach youth about lung health issues in a fun way.
Elena Costello was kind enough to speak with me about her experience using these comics in her lessons. Ms. Costello is a doctoral student currently working on her PhD at Ohio State University in Hispanic Linguistics and Culture from the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. She is a fellow in Spanish Linguistics and specializes in Health Care Policy.
Ms. Costello is also the Coordinator for the program LASER (Latino and Latin American Space for Enrichment and Research). She is a mentor and academic advisor for high school students through post-doc. She is also involved with IMPACT (Interpreters for the Medical Profession through Advanced Curriculum and Teaching), a special program that helps bilingual high school students become certified medical interpreters and earn college credit. Her dream, inspired from her experience of 10 plus years as a medical interpreter is to set up medical interpretive programs in hospitals that incorporate culturally competent individuals.
Elena please tell a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I was born and raised in Ohio. My mom is from Mexico and my dad is Anglo American. I grew up speaking Spanish and English but I am English dominant.
Growing up I had to deal with discrimination and wanted to help be a part of change. I saw and experienced language discrimination towards my mother in medical scenarios.
Fredrick Aldama (Distinguished Professor and mentor) pushed me to pursue graduate school. In my department, I am the only Latina from Ohio out of 80 students. There are no Latino men.
I manage La Clinica Latina, the The Spanish Language Clinic and as a medical interpreter for 10 + years I worked in the pediatric hospital and specialized in emergency medicine. In working with LASER and IMPACT I saw myself in the students. I want to change what I had gone through. In Ohio schools, bilingual students are considered “high risk.” This includes students in elementary school and up. The Impact program trains qualified bilingual students to be medical interpreters. We help them get certified and also earn college credit. Interestingly enough the credits they earn count for the linguistics department (primarily Spanish/ Portuguese) but in high school it is categorized under ESL. They have to take the ACT college entrance exams and get to learn medical terminology and cultural sensitivity to engage with patients, and medical professionals effectively.
How did you come in contact with Prime Vice Comics?
What prompted you to buy Prime Vice Comics and how were they useful in your classes?
Saint Love City Funk was the only comic that was bilingual. I liked how it played with words. I liked Lung Girl because it was medically related but not too medical and was fun.
In SLCF, the dialogue is not translated word for word so the students were able learn how interpretations are not literal translations. They were able to understand how ideas can be translated and understood in multiple ways. Depending on your heritage, background and experience the content can be interpreted differently. This allowed us to discuss imagery in a multitude of ways. Comics give meaning with imagery because they include more clues in the art.
I loved that the comics had the characters speak naturally and included subtitles but weren’t literal translations. The students loved it. It gave me a tool to use as an alternative to textbooks that is just as effective for teaching. I divided the class into groups of three. One person read Spanish, one English, and one interpreted. They switched roles and they compared and contrasted what they already knew. The comics made it easier to convey ideas than using a textbook.
How has using bilingual comics been beneficial to you and your students.?
Through the writing and its print the comic validated Spanglish. Your comics demonstrate that interpretation is cultural. The way you did bilingualism was special.
In studying comics there is nuance in the imagery that is not expressed in literal words.
With comics there is more to the content than just the words or pictures.
Using your comics helped me show my students that they have more understanding than they realize. The academic environment tends to downplay the gifted abilities of multi-cultural/multi-lingual students. This in turn tends to make them less confident and apprehensive of building on their cultural background proactively. Comics helped give them the tools to speak on these issues.
Thank you Elena for your time and sharing this insightful experience. We hope that more success stories like this continue to surface. How may people connect with you?
Find me on LinkedIn under Elena Costello.
When I first established Prime Vice Studios the initial mission statement was to grow "CROPC." CROPC stands for Chain Reactions of Progressive Change. Ms. Costello's and her student's experience provided confirmation that PVS is living up to its mission. I look forward to continuing to make a positive difference and to connect with others who aim to do the same.
PS. Lung Girl and Saint Love City Funk Comics are available for purchase. Click the buttons below to order your copies today!
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