University Marketing and Communications

Pilar Melero

January 27, 2022

Written and photos by Craig Schreiner

Por qué me dedico a la educación: Pilar Melero

In WHY I TEACH, Pilar Melero, professor of languages and literatures, sees her gift to the world as helping students access the incredible power of thought.

As a child, Melero loved her grandfather’s small library of books. In the library she held poems written in the 1800s by her great-grandmother. Grandparents, aunts and uncles delighted her with stories they would construct and refine. Melero learned to write well, encouraged by primary and secondary teachers. She graduated from UW-Whitewater and became a journalist and newspaper columnist. She first resisted the calling to teach, then found a reason. She leads a well-examined life.


Pilar Melero smiling, outdoors.

Pilar Melero, professor of languages and literatures, on campus after a class.


“I practiced journalism for many years, both as a journalist and as a columnist, and swore to myself that whatever I’d do in life, I would not teach Spanish or be a bilingual teacher — since that is what was expected of me, and I have never been one to follow other’s expectations. One day, I was recruited to teach a Spanish class at the University of Texas-El Paso, and I decided that I wanted to teach the rest of my life.”

“A medical doctor cures patients, a lawyer helps those in need of legal guidance, farmers feed the world — but what will I, a professor of literature, offer the world? I soon had my answer as I began to teach and witness how my students engaged with thought.”


Pilar Melero writes on a whiteboard.

Pilar Melero makes notes during a discussion on race and ethnicity.


“Thought! Such a seemingly simple but challenging task. I see my students reading, writing, writing plays and acting in them, questioning injustices, offering solutions to old problems and creating worlds for themselves and others. I see them leading voting drives in underserved communities, publishing short stories and poems in national and international venues, telling stories through word and image — stories that stretch the definition of literature beyond canonic walls. I see students working with underrepresented communities to help them achieve representation. I realized that, as a literature professor, I had the privilege of guiding students in their quest to be thinkers, to be critical thinkers — and thus be not only problem solvers but creative individuals capable of imagining just and beautiful worlds. That is my gift to the world: to help students access the incredible power of thought.”


Pilar Melero teaches a class.

Pilar Melero, professor of languages and literatures, is one of four faculty who collaborate in teaching a class on race and ethnicity.


“My courses teach students to think critically about issues affecting Latin American and Latinx communities, issues related with gender, class, and race, as well as with the histories and stories in those communities. They are designed to help students understand the beauty and depth of Latin American and Latinx culture and history as well as the complexity of the issues faced by these communities. My students vary from the first-year student who is eager to find a career path to seniors who are close to graduation. Many of them are going into fields as diverse as education, translation and interpretation, business, international studies, and women’s and gender studies. Many of my students come to my classroom with a desire to learn about worlds unlike their own. Other students — Latinx students, African American students, LGBTQ students and other underrepresented students — come seeking to learn more about their own histories and stories. They search not only for a career path, but a path to adult life in these, our diverse and complex United States.”


Pilar Melero teaches a class.

Pilar Melero teaches in Hyland Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at UW-Whitewater.


“I came to UW-Whitewater invited by Dr. Manuel Ossers — who encouraged me to apply for a part-time lecturer position — and I stayed because I loved being home again and working with a community I knew well: the UW-Whitewater student, faculty and staff community. I felt home at UW-Whitewater in the 1980s when I was an undergraduate student and I still did in 2002 when I came back. Why go anywhere else when you are home?”


WHY I TEACH is a series about the dedicated professionals at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, including professors, coaches, advisors and other staff members, who make every day a teachable moment — and every place a learning place — by their expertise and example.

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