Senior Lecturer in UM College of Arts & Sciences Receives Prize for Teaching Portuguese

Leila Dacosta Earns Prestigious Brazilian International Press Award

Professor Leila Dacosta, senior lecturer in the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, has received the 2014 Brazilian International Press Award for excellence in college-level teaching of the Portuguese language.

Created in 1997 by Brazilian-born, U.S.-based journalist Carlos Borges, the Brazilian International Press Awards honor individuals, institutions, and initiatives that spread a positive image of Brazil throughout the world.

The selection process is rigorous and lengthy, including nominations from the public, consideration by five regional and one national Awards Boards, and a popular vote.

Associate Professor of Portuguese and Director of UM’s Portuguese Program Steven Butterman said, “We are extremely proud of Professor Dacosta’s numerous accomplishments. She is a dedicated professional and a gifted language teacher, universally respected and beloved by her lucky students.”

He added that Professor Dacosta is the Department’s first-ever senior lecturer devoted exclusively to Portuguese. Her recognition “represents our latest success in a continued trajectory of excellence,” Butterman said.

Butterman won the Brazilian International Press Award in 2007, and several faculty members have been recognized for their teaching and research by the Association of Teachers of Portuguese.

Dacosta has been teaching Portuguese at UM for six years. She previously taught at Florida International University, Miami Dade College and Middlebury College in Vermont. She teaches basic and intermediate Portuguese, and a class on conducting business in Portuguese for Spanish speakers.

Dacosta has two Master’s degrees in linguistics, and is pursuing her Ph.D. in language learning.

She said, “This award is important to me, but I know that we do not accomplish things on our own,” acknowledging Butterman and UM for “supporting me as a professor and my research in virtual learning.”

Speaking Portuguese has never been more important than it is today, especially for the economic success of our region. Between 250,000 and 300,000 Brazilians live in South Florida, and Brazil is our state’s most significant trading partner. Additionally, Brazil has been identified as one of the world’s key emerging economies – included in the BRICS group of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

Butterman said, “Portuguese is the sixth or seventh most widely spoken language in the world (depending on which source one consults),” adding that it is the “official language in countries on four continents.” More than 200 million people in Brazil alone speak Portuguese, along with inhabitants of five countries in Africa and three regions in Asia.

Dacosta received her award during a ceremony at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Friday evening, May 2.

April 30, 2014