professor
Raquel Diez-Diaz

Dec 2012

Raquel is maybe the most interesting/bizarre/outlandishly inappropriate professor I have ever had. My Spanish really didn't improve but I learned a lot about prostitution, drug use, cannibalism, abortion, foreign aid, gay marriage and domestic violence. Her class consists of a 10 minute homework/grammar lesson and then the rest is mainly conversations in Spanish about the above topics. She grades incredibly harshly but this has nothing to do with your final grade. I got mostly 60s and 70s on the essays, an 88 on the midterm and then an A in the class. Either she grades on a massive curve, or she just doesn't pay attention to numbers at all. I would say the key to getting on her good side is pretending like you really care. You should meet with her to discuss essays and participate like mad in class. She really is a nice person, but she is different. Definitely not your typical professor.

Nov 2012

If you want to know why half of these reviews worship Raquel while the other half demonize her, read on. Raquel does not fuck around. She wants you to do the work she assigns you, and frankly, there's not much outside of class. Yes, she requires you to write in class essays, but I honestly don't think they really matter for your grade, regardless of what she says. I know a girl in my class who was AWFUL at Spanish and failed every single one of those essays yet she got a B or B+ in the class because she tried during class and made it clear that she wanted to improve her Spanish. If you genuinely want to get better at Spanish and have fun at the same time, this class is for you. Everyone in our class got substantially better at Spanish because of Raquel, whether they were good or bad at Spanish to begin with. I love Raquel and really hope she is still teaching here because not only was she an amazing teacher, but she made me question the way I think about everything, from language to social issues. She is willing to talk about drugs or sex or whatever will interest the class and that makes it a lot of fun. While I (and everyone else in my class) loved the time we spent with Raquel, I can understand why some people don't agree with her tactics. She does make it seem like half your grade is based on how you perform on the in-class movie essays, but I have evidence they don't, as long as you are working to improve each time. She will also start a fight with you in Spanish and cause you to get extremely frustrated that you can't say what you want to say, while she has the entire Spanish vocabulary at her disposal. My guess is that the students who reviewed her badly made it clear to her that they didn't want to be in her class, or that they were looking for an easy A, and she wasn't having that. And I respect her for that. There are definitely language teachers at Columbia who don't really push their students. Bottom line: If you genuinely want to improve your Spanish and are willing to try during class, you want to be in Raquel's class. She is a riot and will care about you if you care about her class. Also, she may try to scare you out of being in her class on the first day; this is her way of weeding out the lazy students. BUT If you are just trying to finish the language requirement and don't really care about your level of proficiency, maybe try another instructor.

Jun 2012

Don't trust the previous reviews which try to soften the criticism of Raquel's classroom. Here's one of many reasons to avoid the class: You are assigned four written compositions during the semester, which are written in class (Craig-Florez assigned them as homework). You have to write these compositions after watching a Spanish foreign film at home (Craig-Florez played the films in class). The craziest part is that your grade on these compositions depends not only on the correctness of your grammar and spelling, but also on whether Raquel thinks your thesis is sound! Your thesis MUST tie together three things: the title of the film, a major theme of the film, and the ending of the film. No exceptions. That's complicated enough to come up with, let alone to write in Spanish, and to write during class! After the first composition, the average grade on them was between 50 and 60%. And if that wasn't frustrating enough, when our class asked for Raquel to give an example of a good thesis, she refused! If someone had told me that I was basically taking a film studies class in Spanish, I would have reconsidered staying in Raquel's class.

Dec 2010

Raquel is pretty crazy, but I liked her. IF YOU ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO GET INTO A SPANISH SECTION AND SHE IS THE TEACHER, DO NOT DROP IT BECAUSE OF ANY OTHER CULPA REVIEWS. She definitely has “favorites” of some sort… but getting on her “good side” basically just involves enjoying her class. This includes doing the homework, participating in class, submitting to her completely bizarre system wholeheartedly, and enjoying the language. Many previous reviewers have mentioned this “bizarre system” as well, but not elaborated much. A typical day of class can generally be expected to include: 95 seconds of reviewing homework during the very beginning of class (sometimes she finishes going over it before I can even find mine), paired conversation prompted by questions on little bits of paper, grammar lessons using either Paris Hilton, PrezBo, various drugs, sex, and Adderall as nouns, conversation based on current events, and other random things. I was never totally sure of what was going on because although class always seemed to be busily filled with work, we covered an amazingly tiny amount of material (this is due to the department rather than Raquel). The class was also strange because the very few things we “learned” were all obscure grammar lessons that nearly no one uses in real-life conversation. At the same time, however, Raquel highly discourages learning new vocabulary as a way to improve one’s language prowess. Instead, she encourages using the Spanish you already know to convey your thoughts, or to even change your thoughts to suit what you CAN say. I placed into this class as a freshman, and my Spanish was decent enough to have probably exempted from my requirement. I was lucky to squeeze into a Spanish Intermediate II section, though, so I just decided to give it a try. I stuck with her, so apparently I enjoyed it? Raquel’s craziness aside, my confidence with speaking Spanish, my enjoyment of the language, and my ability to speak practically have all improved dramatically. Take the jump. Also, you have to be in the very middle to upper range of the exemption test results for her to accept you. She rejected a fair number of people the first day because they just made it into Int II. Also, she is terrifying the first day and half the people left. Then the next class she was suddenly fun and hilarious.

Oct 2010

Profesor Diez seems like the funniest, kindest, most caring professor you could ask for. She always comes to class with a bright smile on her face and with juicy gossip and news stories from around the world. Though she is an excellent professor, she is also extremely dogmatic and critical of other people's opinions. If she disagrees with something you say, she will hound you relentlessly about it. I understand that she expects only the best from her students and that she is trying to combat the laziness with which people approach her class, but the standards that she will hold you to are entirely harsh. Her demeanor in class does not reflect the severity of her grading system nor her attitude towards you, your work, or your effort. If you tell her you forgot your book at home, she will tell you "it's ok, it doesn't matter, whatever" and smile, and then mercilessly punish you later for your lack of preparedness in class. Maybe I'm being a little hyperbolic, but sometimes it truly seems as if she's teaching just to get a kick out of humiliating her students.

Apr 2009

I love Raquel. Having class with her is exciting and you learn a lot. If you are over-sensitive than don't take this class, because she is not one to take nonsense. She is always willing to help and keeps the class working hard to learn, but is also understanding about absences, extensions, etc. Really great instructor and lovely person.

Dec 2008

After reading the previous reviews, I was kind of nervous taking Raquel's class but in the end I was glad I did. She is a bit eccentric and has some wierd rules, but her eccentric ways and rules only help you in the end. Her teaching style is a bit scattered but you get used to it. She does throw people out of the class for yawning and stretching but she only does it because she knows it's catching and pretty soon the whole class will be yawning if she doesn't outlaw it. You will have to work in pairs for the whole class, there is no individual work in here class but it does help with your conversational skills. I recommend the class only if you aren't a stickler for details bacuase she really doesn't have a structured class.

Nov 2007

I don't know why some people seem to hate Raquel so much. True she is eccentric, strict, and sometimes temperamental, but she is a fantastic person and a great person. She helped me whenever I needed it after class or in her office hours. As long as you are not rude and try to participate in her class she will love you and respect you. I know people warned you about yawning, which is entirely true, this semester she kicked two people out of class for yawning...and ONE OF THEM WAS ME. She talked to me after class the next day an explained how it wasn't because she thought I was rude or anything, it just has to do with class atmosphere and apparently (she didn't say this) it's really rude in Spain (where she's from) to yawn. Anyway, despite all of that she is SO HELPFUL, she goes over quizes with me, gets excited when any of her students do well, and she goes the extra mile to help me prepare for tests...she even printed out some helpful hints she had on studying for foreign language tests for me. She is the nicest lady, always greeting her students with enthusiasm and a huge SMILE. I know she is slightly out there at times, but if you just go with the flow I'm sure you will be entertained and enjoy her class just like I did. It was a 9 am class, but I was excited to go to it (almost) every day!

May 2007

Okay, I read the culpa reviews before I took this class, and I thought that there was no way she could be as unreasonable as everyone claimed. I was wrong. She cares way more about people yawning in her 9am class than she does about making sure they understand the material. She does encourage conversation, and I enjoyed her immersion style of teaching, but aside from that she doesn't seem to care if you learn Spanish or not. The daily oral exercises are good-intentioned, I suppose, but essentially useless. You can have a 97 quiz average, but if you yawn or stretch or turn your page too loudly during a test (true story) she'll dock your participation grade and call you an inconsiderate student. It's not worth fighting with her either, because she'll just tell you to switch sections of you have that much of a problem. She broke her hand three-quarters of the way through the semester, and when the grad student who finished the semester came, he was basically appalled by how little people had grasped the material Raquel had 'taught.' Basically, if you're not looking to have to fight for the grade you deserve, steer clear.

Jan 2007

Terrible. Avoid this class at absolutely all costs and the following reasons are why: 1. She does not make it a point to help her students even when they express serious interest in getting help. She, many times, shews them away once class ended. Once, she told a student in the staircase of Hamilton, "Go ask your classmates. Don't bother me with your questions." 2. She creates an unhealthy atmosphere not conducive to learning. This is because she harps on the students for doing regular things, like coughing, yawning, or stretching. And I am not lying. You can ask anyone who took her class. She has kicked people out for stretching! And the person I witnessed she kicked out he stretched once! She even got mad at a kid for "raising his hand too many times." Her punishments for students make them feel timid and therefore less apt to try to learn since they feel like she will punish them for trying. She is absolutely illogical and confusing.

Dec 2006

Raquel Diez-Diaz is one of the worst teachers that I have ever encountered. She in unable to convey the basic concepts of elementary Spanish in a clear and direct manner. She just whizzes from one chapter to another and you better sleep with your textbook and prepare to teach yourself. Absences: You are only allowed to have 3 unexcused absences throughout the entire semester, for a class that meets everyday of the week, and the only way to get an absence excused is with a written note, not an email or phone call. It has to be a written note. Homework: Homework is gone over at the beginning of each class and Raquel sits there, with her pen and attendance book, calling on students at random. If you don't have the homework she makes a little mark in her book and she is not subtle in doing this either. Stretching/Yawning: If you stretch or yawn in RaquelÂ’s class then she may/will kick you out. One freshman this semester was kicked out a few times for this and while it seems ridiculous, as yawning is not a reflection upon Raquel or her class, Raquel will not hesitate to lash out at you with a remark like: "This is my work and I don't come to your work and yawn do I? If you want to do that then go to your room." Class Exercises: Even though the class was only Elementary Spanish 1 you could not speak any English at all. You are expected to learn the vocabulary outside of class and most of the class time is spent working in groups on exercises that Raquel speeds through, one after the other, never really explaining anything. She passes out more paper and spends more time talking about sex and other nonsense than she actually teaches. Overall: While Raquel is not a mean person, her class was unbearable. Most of the time you are subjected to her mood swing of the day and you never know what to expect from her. She holds your grade above your head and makes it known if you are one of her favorites or not. As long as she has the most control, is the funniest, the loudest, and the most shocking then everything is alright. If you dare to EVER challenge her then your life will be miserable. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND RAQUEL AS A TEACHER, AT LEAST NOT AT THE ELEMENTARY SPANISH I LEVEL. SHE IS TEMPERMENTAL, UNPROFESSIONAL, AND HER CLASS IS A PAIN TO GET THROUGH ON MOST DAYS.

Nov 2006

What a nightmare! She seems to hate the males in the class, and throws them out as much as possible for stretching, yawning, slouching, anything at all. She won't teach, so its a do-it-yourself class. Expect no help and a bad attitude from this woman. Being paired off for conversation does nothing but reinforce bad pronounciation and mistakes. She's the worst teacher I've ever had. Consider yourselves warned.

Nov 2006

Never again. I don't know what the issue was with Prof. Diez-Diaz when I took her class in the Spring of '06, but she was definitley taking out her frustrations on everyone in the class. She's totally unpredictable. One minute she can be very nice, and the next minute she's insulting her student's intelligence. She once told a student in class, "it does not matter what you think". She likes things done her way and does not consider other viewpoints and possibilities. Everyone in the class dreaded having to sit through her lectures...it wasn't like we were learning anything anyway. Bottom line, don't take this class. There are plenty of wonderful teachers in the Spanish department, and Raquel isn't one of them. Although she can de very nice outside of class, her attitude towards teaching makes the classroom environment miserable. All I remember from her course was feeling relieved on the last day of classes.

May 2006

Raquel was great. Not only did I learn a lot, but I actually enjoyed going to class. Raquel is enthusiastic, funny, and an overall excellent teacher. She demands that only Spanish be spoken during class, which is great for learning the language. As long as you go to class, usually on time and don't yawn, stretch, or eat, you'll have no problems. She's also not obsessed with grades and would rather you understand and learn the language.

May 2006

Attitude is everything...that will determine how much you can take from this woman. She seems nice on the surface, but when you get into the class, all she wants is to get the attendance as low as you can go. Best bet for all classes here: if it's taught by a lecturer, they may be the most merciless profs you ever have...BEWARE!!!

Jan 2006

Raquel is completey insane. I would get a stomach ache every time I had to go to class because I was terrrified that she was going to call on me and embarrass me. She's actually a nice woman outside of class, but in class she's really quirky. She never gave back most of the assignments and I have NO idea why she gave me an A in the end-she made it seem the whole time that I was barely passing. I learned almost nothing in this class. She has a very strict way of approaching literature that I found weird and completely unhelpful. If I hadn't read some of the texts before hand I would have completely missed EVERYTHING about them, including the basic plot. I'm sure she's not as bad with more basic spanish classes, I do NOT recommend taking this class with her. I am not taking spanish this semester because of her.

Nov 2005

Raquel is a pretty good teacher, if you know what your doing this class is effortless. If you dont she seems to be bringing everyone around just fine. The work load is minamal, some book work that is never for a grade and a few comps that are graded easy.

Jan 2005

Raquel is great! I'm continuing with her next semester as long as the class works with my schedule. The class is well organized, sensible, and sets reasonable expectations for students. As long as you're respectful and engaged she'll do her best to bump up your grade.

Sep 2004

This is not the typical Spanish class. Consider yourself warned. Two semesters are compressed into one – all frills (vocabulary lessons, games etc) have been removed. Essentially this is Spanish at its most straightforward. Little emphasis is put on vocabulary or Spanish culture. Heavy emphasis is put on the grammatical concepts, speaking, and listening skills. The pace of the class is very fast -- we covered about two chapters a week. If you have no previous Spanish experience, this class may not be the best fit. For those who have studied spanish (or latin), and want a fast-paced yet thorough review, this class is a good option -- especially because it only meets 3 days a week (and fridays aren't one of them). You will be teaching the grammatical concepts to yourself outside of class. Class-time is for practicing those concepts. Much of the work in done in pairs and Raquel is simply there to correct you. Don't expect Raquel to teach you the fine points of Spanish grammar -- while she will do her best to clarify things if asked, all of the learning will come from reading the book (it's a fairly good book, although the content can be scattered around). Don’t be scared away in the first week. Raquel can seem very intimidating and her teaching style comes across as very narrow minded: "don't ask me how to say a word in Spanish, just choose a different word." This is simply to shrink the class down, and weed out the people who won’t be able to keep up. Our class had only 9 or 10 people, and it was wonderful. If you have a choice, take the later section. Because it's after the working day ends, you'll get to meet some ridiculously interesting people. Raquel is fun, but slightly eccentric (she has many interesting conspiracy theories). She’s not one of the best teachers i've had here at Columbia, but it really doesn’t matter for this teach-yourself class.

Feb 2004

She seems like a really tough professor to begin with. She is incedibly strict and dont think twice about speaking english in her class, stretching, yawning, etc... Honestly even though she comes across as mean, she actually really cares about her students. If you just suck it up for 50 minutes each day and follow the rigid guidelines, you are sure to do well in her class. Her class is hands on and all about practicing speaking and understanding the language so make sure you learn the material on your own time, you come to class to practice it. If you are someone who can follow strict guidelines, be humble and avoid an attitude the class will be fine. I personally enjoyed the class and recommend it, I had a good time and learned a lot, but it is certainly not for everyone.

Jan 2004

Spanish was one of my favorite classes this past semester, in no small part because of Raquel. While it is true that she expects you to memorize most of the finer points of Spanish grammar and new vocabulary words on your own at home, she makes sure that you use the grammar and vocab. in in-class exercises, thus ensuring loads of class participation. The class is interactive, and Raquel does not object to digressions in the conversation, so long as they are in Spanish. I found this method of learning Spanish far more interesting than sitting in the class room and being lectured at about grammar rules.

May 2003

Well, I don't agree with those students who say that she is an awful teacher. I will admit that she is not the greatest Spanish teacher in the world, but she is one of the best in the Columbia Spanish Department. Sadly, I have found that Columbia is greatly lacking in the Spanish Department on a whole and you are not going to find your foreign language experience here all that stimulating. Do not cast off Raquel as a poor teacher; she has some very positive points about her teaching style. She encourages/forces Spanish conversation in class which helps a tremendous amount (and can admittedly be a struggle for those who have trouble listening). Also, she is a very nice, interesting, and funny professor who makes what could otherwise be an unbearable experience actually fun. She can explain rules, and exceptions, much more clearly than other professors that I have had. She really doesn't seem to care about grades at all and rather just wants to make sure that you understand her language and culture.

Apr 2003

Don't even think about having her as a professor for ANY CLASS. Don't mind the comments of the first year students taking Spanish 101 with her either b/c they are still fascinated with the idea of being here at Columbia. I'm a Spanish major and had to take this class, her section and although I received an A, I still regret it. She was VERY rude to students who didn't agree with what she was "explaining." Half of the time she was asking us how to pronounce words in English. Didn't care how much we learned. I am a senior with bad experiences with professors, but she is the worst (quality wise) that i've had in my four years. So DON'T.

Mar 2003

Diez-Diaz was one of the worst experiences I have had at Columbia. If she spent as much time teaching as she did praising "AntoniOOO Bandaras!!" she would still just be o.k. as a teacher. Not recommended.

Jan 2003

Raquel is a wonderful woman. Her class is a bit repetitive, but it's still enjoyable. She is nice, sweet, funny, and it feels like she loves teaching and her students. Her class is also easy, but it's Spanish so it's supposed to be. Not real stressful on vocabulary, but you do learn your grammar, and everyday sayings.

Jan 2003

The first several weeks of this course may seem difficult to students who haven't taken spanish before. You are expected to teach yourself and the beginning of the semester goes quickly. I had taken one semester before and found the pace of the class to be perfect for me. The beginning was review and the rest of the semester went at a slower pace. Raquel is very nice and I enjoyed the class but some students complained because we were expected to learn from the hw and the book (not from Raquel). In class we reviewed the hw and did numerous activities using what we had already learned but Raquel doesn't lecture. I struggle greatly with languages and I still managed to keep up just fine. I'd take a class from Raquel again.

Mar 2002

Likes students, good atmosphere. First name basis with her students. Homework is easy, quizzes are somewhat nitpicky but not too bad.

Jan 2002

Raquel seems very intent upon using repetition as a method of teaching concepts. This should be taken as either a suggestion or a warning depending on the individual. For me, it didn't help as much as I would have liked because the repetitive exercises centered around grammatical structure, which didn't seem to need as much attention as vocabulary building. As a result, problems occured on her tests because she tends to use a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary in subjective situations which makes thourough, and even correct answers difficult to produce at times. However, she is enthusiastic, so the class, however helpful or not, is never a snoozfest.

Jan 2002

Spanish was one of my most enjoyable classes this semester largely due to the fact that I had Raquel (we are all on a first name basis) as my teacher! She's friendly, down-to-earth, and a great Spanish teacher all around. The class atmosphere is great... you get to know almost everyone immediately, and the routine is pretty much the same everyday.

Jan 2000

Raquel is a great teacher - enthusiastic and energetic. She really works to make the class interesting for all students. And even though the class might be packed with 15-20 students...she makes sure that everyone gets to practice speaking. I thoroughly enjoyed her class.

Jan 2000

Enthusiastic and encouraging, she not only knows her stuff, she works to make it interesting. Leaves the cookie cutter at home and adjusts her methods to each class. Recommended.