LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

April 20, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Zach Patrick-Riley

It is my pleasure to introduce you to 2017-18 LTS student Zach Patrick-Riley.

Zach enjoying the Alaskan summer.

Hi Zach! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Hi! Oi! Hola! My name is Zach Patrick-Riley and I am originally from Anchorage, Alaska. I did my undergrad at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin (Go Pack Go!) and while there I discovered the joy of traveling when I studied abroad in London, England. Since that first time abroad, 2008, I have been to 38 countries around the world. People often ask what my favorite place is and it’s an impossible question… with that being said, Brazil is like a second home to me.

Zach representing the Pernambuco, Brazil state flag.

Zach enjoying a waterfall up close at Foz de Iguazu, Brazil.

Halfway through my senior year of college, I was still deciding what to do after graduation. Fortuitously, I attended a weekend workshop that my university put on about diversity on campus. The first night I was quite tired, but I saw a group of students sitting by a fire. I decided it was as good a time as any to branch out and meet some new people. Thankfully I did because I soon started talking to a student from Northeast Brazil, Gustavo. We got along right away and he asked me what my plans were for after graduation. Long story short, he put me in touch with the owner of a school in Brazil, Junior, who invited me to come teach there after graduation. At the time, I didn’t really know anything about Brazil but it seemed like quite the adventure (I didn’t even speak any Portuguese!).

Zach with a couple Brazilian students and Pikachu.

Zach with a group of teachers/friends he trained in Brazil.

I was quite nervous before the first class and wasn’t sure if I would even enjoy teaching. That all changed the minute class started. Do you know those moments in life where something just feels right? Well that’s how I felt about teaching. On that very first day, the energy in the classroom spoke to me on such a deep level and it has continued to do so ever since.

After spending six months teaching in Brazil, I returned to Alaska and from 2010-2014 I did a combination of substitute teaching and working in the art department on various commercials and movies (e.g. Big Miracle). I loved the flexibility that the jobs provided as I could work hard for a bit and then go travel to different parts of the world. In 2014, I decided to commit even more to language teaching and got my CELTA (a TESOL teaching certificate) before returning to Brazil to teach/do teacher training for 2015-2016. My second time over there just reaffirmed my love for language teaching and Brazil.

Zach at a farewell party with his fellow teacher friends in Caruaru, Brazil.

Quite the story! Was your journey to LTS as serendipitous?

Zach hiking with LTS friends Alexis and Lee.

It’s quite the story as well, but to sum it up: After returning from 2.5 years working and traveling in South America, I went to the 2017 International TESOL conference in Seattle. During the conference it became apparent that in order to get the kind of premium jobs I wanted, a Master’s degree was essential. Right after that realization, I attended a workshop and met a graduate student in the LTS program, Devon Hughes.

She spoke highly of the program and mentioned that the director of the program, Dr. Keli Yerian, was actually downstairs. I didn’t want to impose, but am glad I got past that because talking with Keli and other LTS faculty and students who were there inspired me to apply. I got my application ready as soon as the conference ended and now here I am one year later.

So how has the LTS experience been for you?

The experience has been life-changing to say the least, both personally and professionally. Succeeding academically in this program has meant the world to me on a personal level and really built up a lot of academic confidence that before was lacking. Everything we learn in the program directly benefits our future teaching endeavors. It is very hands-on so you get to mould your learning to suit your individual interests.

Zach doing a workshop on VR/AR and language learning which fellow LTS friend Logan Matz seems to be enjoying.

For me, what really makes LTS special is the community with the cohort and the professors. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging, while also making sure we each achieve our maximum potential. The professors treat us with kindness and respect, valuing and encouraging our contributions in the classroom. The professors always take the time to talk to students after class. I am forever grateful for the guidance I have received from my fellow cohort members and professors, as well as the smiles and laughter.

I know you work as a GE (graduate employee) at CASLS. What has that been like?

I know it sounds cliché, but CASLS has been life-changing as well. Just like the LTS community, what really makes CASLS so special is the energy. Every day I am inspired by the collaborative and innovative values to which CASLS subscribes. I have the supreme pleasure of working with LTS faculty member Dr. Julie Sykes, who has shifted the way I see communication due to pragmatics, and Stephanie Knight, who has greatly enhanced my efficacy with curriculum design and article writing. The superlatives continue as the rest of the people at the CASLS office are equally amazing and brighten my every day, even in the most stressful of times.

Zach with CASLS colleagues enjoying Halloween.

In terms of projects, there have been quite a few I’ve worked on. The biggest one is LingroToGo, a new Spanish language learning mobile application that promotes authentic language use, and dynamic game-based language learning. For this app, I have created a number of the animated videos, some video scripts, and done quality assurance testing. It is fantastic to be even a small part of a resource that, in my opinion, exemplifies the direction quality language teaching is heading.

Another project is writing articles for the online language learning newsletter Intercom, which offers cutting-edge research and ready-made classroom activities. This experience has allowed me to author publications that reach thousands of national and international educators.

During Winter term, I also worked with a group of visiting Japanese students from Nagoya, University, and as always, it reaffirmed just how wonderful it is to be in the classroom. I love that I get to be an integral part in the planning and implementation of all kinds of cool programs.

Zach doing a workshop on pragmatics with students from Nagoya University.

It sounds like it! Last question, are you excited to have started working on your final MA project?

I am indeed. It is a little daunting as time is flying by and we will be presenting before we know it… but when you love what you are studying/working on, it makes it fun and exciting.  My project involves pragmatics, pronunciation, and individualized learner instruction.

Any final thoughts?

Sim (yes in Brazilian Portuguese). The world responds when you take chances and put yourself out there. I was nervous before I talked to Gustavo at that workshop, or when I talked to Devon and subsequently Keli at the TESOL conference, and I was even nervous about applying to grad school and CASLS. As you read, they all ended up being positive life changing experiences and make me fill-up with emotion just thinking about them. Often the most rewarding experiences are intimidating at first, but just believe in yourself and you will end up in the most wonderful of places, like the LTS program.

Zach at the summit of Rainbow Mountain in Peru.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Best of luck in your completion of the program.

April 14, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Emily Letcher

Emily in Mexico – Celebrating Day of the Dead!

This week’s post highlights Emily Letcher, who graduated in 2016 from LTS. Emily began thinking about a future in language teaching as an undergraduate at UO, taking Second Language Acquisition and Teaching classes. She finished her MA degree with a project titled, “Teaching Interlanguage Pragmatics of Disagreement in a Secondary EFL Context Using Film and TV Shows”, and took off to Thailand to teach middle school before settling in Mexico at a university.

What is your life like now, almost 2 years after graduating from LTS?

From Eugene, Oregon to Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok to Miahuatlan, Mexico…I grew up in a city of 160,000 people, moved to another of over 8 million, and then decided to settle down in a relatively unknown, southern city in Mexico of about 45,000. I say “settle down” because I now live with my five adopted dogs. All of them are former street dogs here, each with their own story. It’s not always easy to care for them, but it’s definitely worth it.

One of Emily’s rescue dogs playing in the yard

What did you do in Thailand?

Emily with students in Bangkok

Through LTS internships with the US-Thai Distance Learning Organization, which had brought Thai high school students to Oregon several times, I was fortunate enough to make a strong connection with Thailand before even setting foot there. After graduation, I went to Assumption College Thonburi and taught for six months in their English program. Shortly after I arrived, the beloved King of Thailand, Rama IX, passed away. I witnessed an amazing movement of unity and mourning within the country. Bangkok was a whirlwind experience of culture and learning for me.

Traveling in Thailand

What has turned out to be most useful for you from SLAT/LTS?

I’ve just recently completed my first year as a professor at La Universidad de la Sierra Sur (UNSIS). Students here must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and a lot of what we do is to prepare students for that exam. It’s a good challenge for me as a teacher, one that I enjoy. In the LTS program, I focused on curriculum design, so I was extremely excited about, and grateful for, the opportunity here to dive right in and do meaningful curriculum work. I recently wrote a textbook for our first-year, accelerated graduate program. Now I am teaching the course. It’s amazing to me to go through the entire cycle, beginning with those lessons in LTS, to stepping out on my own and developing a full-fledged project, to putting it into practice in a classroom and seeing its results.

Centro de Idiomas at UNSIS -the English department

Do you have any advice or thoughts for current and future students?

Always be open to new opportunities. It may be a tired phrase, but it’s true. I could never have predicted moving to Miahuatlan de Porifirio Diaz, Mexico. It certainly wasn’t part of my ‘grand plan’. I came here with the idea of staying for a short time, but found so much more worth staying for.

A parade in Oaxaca – a city with a rich and artistic culture, two hours from Miahuatlan.

April 6, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Krystal Lyau (2017-18)

It is my pleasure to spotlight current LTS student Krystal Lyau (2017-18).

Krystal on the California Coast.

Hi Krystal! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself:

I’m from Taiwan. This is my second year in the LTS program. I love fantasy. I can do nothing but finish a fantasy novel or a whole season of fantasy TV series in a day. I think that studying abroad is a fantastic and surreal experience too. We are so far from the world we are familiar with, and every day is such an adventure. It is like being granted another kind of life. For the first six months here, I always had this feeling that I was not sure which life was real, the one that I had left behind or the one I was experiencing at the moment. It is definitely a really scary but also exciting journey, like all the novels I have read.

You’ve been in the program for a year and a half right…How has your experience been? Any particular highlights? What are some key things you’ve learned in your time here?

I’m really grateful that I decided to be in this program. As an international student, the first half year here was the hardest. Not only did we have to keep up with the schoolwork like everyone else did, we also struggled a lot with the language, getting used to the academic environment here and overcoming other culture shock in general. However, the LTS program really made all these things much easier for us. The faculty and cohort have always been really supportive, sympathetic, and tolerant. I think the most important thing I have learned is to be critical but also open-minded about everything. Being in an environment with such a diverse culture and varied perspectives really broadens my horizons. It gives me an opportunity to think differently, and be more creative and liberal.

And I know you were involved with the Chinese Club last term. What was that like?

Krystal in front of Edison elementary school.

It was a brand new experience for me since I have only dealt with high school students before. How to interact with students, to manage the class, to design a lesson is totally different from what I was used to. Last term was especially more challenging than ever, with such a diverse level class, including native speakers, heritage speakers, and novice L2 learners. Classroom management was quite demanding as well because of some students’ lack of learning motivation. Despite all the difficulties, I’m glad that we tried some new things to cope with the problems, like separating the heritage speakers and L2 learners, differentiating the materials, and developing some classroom management routines. It was really rewarding to see that we had finally made some progress.

Krystal teaching students Chinese at Edison elementary school.

Are you excited to start working on your M.A. project?

Yes, it is definitely both exciting and dreadful. I can’t believe I have made it so far and things are getting real now. For my project, I really want to develop something that incorporates what I have learned and experienced as a learner and language teacher in this program.  I hope it will be practical and creative. This is like the last chapter of my journey. It is undoubtedly going to be the most challenging part of the story, but I believe it will be worth reading.

Krystal presenting her writing course for LT 548 Curriculum and Materials Development.

Any final thoughts?

I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to be here, thanks to all the support from my family, the faculty and cohort in this program, and my friends. I couldn’t make it by myself. The finish line is in sight. Good luck to all of us.

Krystal enjoying a moment of relaxation.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Hope you have a great spring term and finale to the program.

March 18, 2018
by Trish Pashby
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Alumni Spotlight: Li-Hsien Yang

Li-Hsien Yang graduated from the LTS Program with her MA in 2011. Since then, she has had a very interesting career in language teaching. We asked her to share some highlights.

Li-Hsien with Black Egg Hello Kitty at Hakone

What have you been doing since graduating?
I started my journey as a Chinese Flagship GTF (I believe they call it GE now). I started at the Center for Applied Second Language Studies (CASLS) in 2010 as an LTS student, and I have been working at CASLS ever since (I signed my contract in the morning of my Terminal Project presentation day). What could a be better surprise than an actual employment contract? I began my first official job title as a Chinese curricula assistant. I worked with the curriculum team for various online Chinese learning projects, Chinese assessment item writing, and grading. Gradually, my role shifted toward working with specific international students. Currently I work with partners overseas to do customized programs for international students. I develop programs from 3 weeks to 10 months long with integration of intercultural experiences, place-based theme module learning about global issues, language pedagogy and American education systems. Every year, I have about 70 students on campus or in the community for various purposes.

Li-Hsien (front, left) and 3-Week Oregon Experience Program for Nagoya University and Meiji Gakuin University students

What jobs or activities in the field of language teaching have been most interesting for you?
I love my current job. I am able to develop a program from a program design prospective, but I also get to do the nitty gritty logistics such as course syllabi design, lesson plans and both summative and formative assessments. I am always stimulated by my students’ enthusiastic positive energy and beautiful smiles. This is the most rewarding part in the world languages field, to work with international students. I love to try new ideas on my students and this has been very fun and full of surprises.

Farewell Party with Oregon International Internship Program student interns, principals, mentor teachers and host families

What advice do you have for new language teachers?
Self-care is essential!
There is no perfect lesson plan.
Be flexible.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I have been getting more interested in gardening, and I have started planning what to plant this year. Also, I enjoy trying different cuisines and having great conversations with diverse people.

Li-Hsien (center) with Oregon Experience colleagues Isabelle Sackville-West (Linguistics Dept undergraduate student) and Zach Patrick-Riley (current LTS student)

Thank you, Li-Hsien! We wish you much continued success in the field of language teaching–and a great garden this year!

March 11, 2018
by zachp
0 comments

Student Spotlight: Yuxin Cheng (2017-2018)

It is my pleasure to introduce you to 2017-18 LTS MA student Yuxin Cheng!

Hi Yuxin! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself:

Yuxin at a cool shop in Monterey, California

Hi everyone, this is Yuxin. I like traveling and all kinds of cute stuff. My undergraduate major was in Accounting, and then I was suddenly aware that I wanted to be a teacher due to my volunteer experience in a Chinese immersion elementary school in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Have you been enjoying the LTS program?

Yuxin (center) with LTS friends Ngan and Yumiko (and Gary from Yamada Language Center)

Yes! I like the courses I am taking and the internship I am doing. Although sometimes I feel a little bit “sad” since I hardly have any time to have fun with my friends, and only have classes, group meetings, readings and papers around my MA project. But I guess this is how my life is supposed to be as a graduate school student. My cohort is really nice; everyone is willing to share and help.

I really like the learning environment in all the courses, and the positive energy shared among our cohort. I appreciate that I have the chance to be involved in our LTS family (people get together after classes to do things, which is really nice and warm). We are more than a cohort in the same program: we are also good friends in each other’s life. Our program’s faculty are all very kind and helpful as well, and they have been working really hard to offer us professional advice and provide help.

Yuxin (center) at an Oregon Ducks football game with neighbor Kohei and LTS friends Zach, Reeya, and Alina

What are you hoping to learn/gain from the program?

I am hoping to become a professional language teacher. I started from zero in the language teaching field, but I found my passion in our program. I knew teaching would be my future career. At the same time, I am hoping to have more chances to practice teaching in order to gain more experience.

And I know you are involved with the Chinese Club. How has that experience been going?

It has been a great experience for me, and a challenge as well. Students in the Chinese Club are combination of native and non-native speakers, so we have increased our attention on making a balance in teaching in order to have all the students to learn.

Yuxin teaching Chinese Club students at Edison Elementary School

Yuxin practicing Origami with Chinese Club students

We decided to separate the native and non-native speakers in our classroom, and classroom management is a big consideration that we face every week since the energy level of our class is really high. But I like to challenge myself and I believe that I can successfully deal with these 9 year olds.

Any final thoughts?

Yuxin (left) with LTS  friend Ngan on the Oregon coast.

 

For me, I think our 15-month program is really intensive. I can’t believe that I am almost done! But this intensive program also provides me an opportunity to prove that I can actually accomplish many things in a short time period! PS: Eugene’s summer is wonderful! Please go to the Oregon coast!

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Hope you have a great end to the term.

Yuxin (right) on Spencer Butte hike with LTS friends Alexis, Rebekah, Lee, Logan, and Ngan

 

March 4, 2018
by Trish Pashby
0 comments

Laura Holland in Peru Observing English Teachers

Laura Holland is a popular LTS faculty member who teaches the LT 537 Language Teaching Practicum course and mentors the new faculty and graduate teachers at the American English Institute. She just returned from another adventure in Peru. We caught up with her as she settles back into Winter term at the University of Oregon and asked about her trip. You’ll find her responses below. Don’t miss the excellent advice she offers new teachers at the end!

What brought you to Peru?

Laura Holland in Lima last summer

Last summer I was in Chiclayo, Peru to give the Keynote address and several workshops at the PeruTESOL conference, which I have attended every year since 2014. While there, I was doing some student recruitment for the American English Institute at a bi-national, bi-cultural English language institute in Chicalyo, called ICPNA/Chiclayo. As it happened, they were looking to replace the person who had served as their external observer/evaluator for the last 15 years who was retiring, and when the Director looked me up before my meeting with them, he found that my areas of expertise and specialization coincided exactly with what they were looking for in a replacement. They offered me the job, which will now continue every year, with an annual visit to ICPNA Chiclayo and starting next year, two other cities in the north of Peru as well. These visits include classroom observations and follow-up feedback conversations with each teacher, professional development workshops for all, strategy planning, and activities needed for their CEA accreditation renewal.

The reason I am going into detail for how this came about is that we never know where the opportunities will come from, so while you are in school and then every year after, think about what areas of specialty you are passionate about and then grab every chance you have to develop those skills to gain hands-on experience doing them, even if it is on a volunteer basis at first, as this will give you excellent experiences and skills to add to your growing CVs making you more attractive as a candidate for jobs.

Laura Holland (front center) with ICPNA/Chiclayo teachers, February 2018

What kinds of tasks and activities were you involved in?

I completed 40 classroom observations (mostly 2 hours each, when possible) with 40 post-observation follow-up feedback sessions with each teacher I observed, in which I gave them detailed, specific feedback about everything I thought was strong in their teaching and specific suggestions for areas of focus for the coming year. Together we worked out short-term, medium range and long-term goals and objectives for the coming year, noting what things they would like to accomplish before my next visit in February 2019. I also gave suggestions for ways to bring the language and their classroom activities to life and to incorporate more genuine communication and active learning into their lessons than they have previously been encouraged to do. They asked many questions, shared their underlying pedagogical thinking and were thoroughly engaged in the process.

Faculty training session at ICPNA/Chiclayo

During the two weeks I was there I led five professional development workshops for teachers on the topics ranging from how we pose questions and call on our students, incorporating active learning models, improving lesson plans to include higher order thinking skills (their request), and creating their own in-house professional development systems (also at their request).

Additionally, I have been given the task of rewriting their new ICPNA philosophy, as the current model is in need of some updating according to “best practice” models in the field of language education. As such, we met to discuss strategy and plan our next moves. I will be rewriting the criteria for evaluating teachers and creating new rubrics based on those criteria.

Did you find anything particularly challenging?

There were two aspects that challenged me particularly. The first was the sheer number of hours a day that I was sitting in a desk chair. At UO I even have a stand-up desk, and in the classroom and around campus, I am in constant motion, walking across campus every day, walking all around, so sitting for most of each day, day after day was physically challenging! I would also say that maintaining the necessary pace was the biggest challenge, especially in the South American summer heat. I completed these observations over the course of 14 days, with only one day off in the middle, working 12-13 hours/day, filling two composition books of handwritten notes so that I would be able to give very specific, detailed feedback to each teacher and so that I would be able to write up the official reports once back home during the month of March. My trip coincided exactly with the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and I definitely felt that I was running my own Olympic event: part sprint, mostly marathon, but 100% amazing!

ICPNA teacher Rosa

What were some of the highlights of your trip?

Hands down the highlight was working directly with the teachers and the mentors, having both group and private time with each person. I came over excited, because I genuinely love teaching and teachers, and to me, classroom observation is one of the great luxuries of my job; I  learn something new from every single observation I ever do, so having this opportunity to do it marathon-style gave me so much food for thought—in addition to the writer’s bump I developed on my right thumb. But I had no idea before the experience the depth of impact I would be able to have. Because these teachers have been rather restricted in the past about how they deliver the curriculum, oftentimes rather terrorized by the summative observation process and told that the communicative activities their teaching instincts were desperate to employ were not allowed, and because I was this new person coming in, they had no idea what to expect from me, and as such, were all extremely nervous about the observations before meeting me, especially the ones first up during that first morning, before the workshops began, and before they began to see “my style.” Over the two weeks, 100% of the teachers, the mentors included, confessed to being so wildly nervous that they hardly slept the night before and many reported terrible “teaching nightmares” before their turn. However, nearly all found that when teachers engage in productive, positively-oriented conversations, where the observing teacher, begins the highly specific feedback session with all the activities and approaches and tools we think they are doing really well, they are open then, to hearing the suggestions. As mentors and supervisors, we can give critique and suggestions framed in the most positive, empathetic way possible, from the perspective of another teacher who also faces these challenges, rather than from some expert voice coming down from on high, and when we take

ICPNA students in action

the time to carefully craft our language and present any “areas to improve” as a challenge we might all face, most teachers turn out to be hungry for this sort of feedback, and eager to experiment with new approaches and tools we might be able to recommend. Of course, it helped that I was usually telling them that what their teaching instincts were screaming at them is considered “best practices” here in the US, and that we would now be moving toward a more active learning approach model throughout the institute. So, it was incredibly gratifying to receive a thousand heartfelt “thank yous” after almost every feedback session and to know that I am contributing to an institutional change that will make the teachers’ work with their students even more inspiring and successful.

Throughout the two weeks, I was amazed and impressed with how teachers were incorporating tools and practices from my workshops into their summative observations, a brave thing to do, to experiment with the unknown when we’re being evaluated. I think it worked in almost all cases because this is what these teachers have been wanting to do all along, less mindless repetition and choral drill, and more meaningful communicative tasks that get students using the language to tell their stories and express their ideas, while practicing the grammatical structures of the day. A moment I will treasure forever came in my last feedback session after my last observation on my last night at ICPNA (10:30pm Saturday night), the very last teacher told me that yes, she had been somewhat nervous before the observation, but more so, that she had never been as excited to “teach-for-evaluation” as she was that night and that she felt she had been “released and freed” to teach in the way she always dreamed she could. Her class had been a blast to observe and filled from start to finish with meaningful activities that put the language into action.

Delicious Chiclayo food: warm smoky ceviche with smoked grilled potato

Oh, another highlight: The food in Peru is outrageously delicious and Chiclayo is particularly famous for their regional and national cuisine.

Do you have any specific tips or advice to share with new or future teachers based on your experiences there?  

  • As you study and teach, reflect on where your passions lie and invest time developing those areas of expertise; you will have more energy for these areas you feel enthusiastic about and many opportunities will come from them as a result of your growing expertise
  • Every few years (or more often), put yourself in the position of our learners, learning some new skill or language or topic, so that you remember what It feels like to be in the learners’ shoes, to not know exactly what’s going on; this will create more empathy for your learners and the struggles they may be facing
  • Create a language learning community in your classroom and another one with your colleagues; our first languages are learned in communities and we should try to create as much of that in the language classroom as we possibly can; everyone has something to teach and something to learn
  • Ask questions you don’t know the answer to and watch how much space it opens up for our students to teach us
  • When you find yourself in a restrictive system that may be at odds with your training and instincts, bend the rules if you safely can, while still working to achieve the objectives of the school, and always reflect on the rationale for why and how you are putting any given approach into practice
  • Be a “reflective” learner/teacher as described by Kolb, Fanselow, and others, and try something out, see what happens, reflect and make small changes and try it again
  • “Leaders aren’t born, they are developed” is a popular saying in leadership training; every leader was once a “newbie” but took the risks to step up and go beyond expectations, a step at a time. Every personality style has the possibility of leadership. Take the excellent education and training you have gotten here at UO and make things happen!
  • Be a lifelong learner

Thank you, Laura–it’s great to have you back in Eugene!!!

Laura Holland (front, 4th from left) and ICPNA faculty “throw the O”

February 24, 2018
by zachp
0 comments

Student Spotlight: Logan Matz (2017-2018)

It is my pleasure to introduce you to 2017-2018 LTS MA student Logan Matz!

Hi Logan! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Logan and Polly

Oh gosh. My love for language really started growing up around a bunch of different, really robust immigrant communities. So everywhere I went, I heard more than just English being spoken, and I thought that was pretty neat! I got my undergraduate degree in linguistics from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, so the move to Oregon wasn’t really too far. I’m a quarter Hungarian (sziasztok!) and the bulk of my extra-continental travel has been to Denmark. I also really enjoy anything related to bikes and dogs. Cooking and hiking are up there as well, although cleaning up afterward is something I struggle with…

Have you been enjoying the LTS program so far?

Logan on his bike

I’ve been enjoying it a lot! It’s great having such a small cohort because it really allows you to work closely with your fellow students and get a lot out of professors because of the small class sizes. I also really like the balance between scaffolded assistance from faculty and dedicated “struggle time”; I think it fosters a sense of independence that’s important to have as a teacher combined with the knowledge that although I can work well on my own, I don’t have to, and there are TONS of resources, people and otherwise, at my disposal to help me learn and create the best project I can.

What are you hoping to learn/gain from the program?

In undergrad, I knew I really wanted to teach. But I also knew that I would need to learn how to teach first. I applied for the program knowing that I didn’t have any language teaching experience, and I’m so pleased to have taken the practicum class with Laura Holland– what a fun formative entry into the world of teaching! I’m really looking forward to developing pragmatics-related curricula, although I still have a lot to learn.

And I know you have two internships this term–Harrisburg and CASLS. How have those been going?

Logan teaching Adult Basic Skills in Harrisburg through Linn-Benton Community College

Harrisburg is great. I’m volunteering with Amy Griffin (LTS alum!), who’s teaching an Adult Basic Skills Community English Language Acquisition course through Linn-Benton Community College, and although I helped out once a week last quarter, I made it official this quarter and I’m teaching twice a week now. The class size and proficiency distribution means that there’s a beginner group and an intermediate group, and I’m very grateful to Amy for letting me swap between groups during the week. I work with the beginners on Tuesdays, and then Thursdays work with the intermediate group. Of course, I couldn’t do it without Amy, who’s putting in twice the work by writing both her own lesson plan and a lesson plan for me to follow. All I have to do is drive north, show up, and teach!

Logan monitoring Adult Basic Skills students

It’s a fantastic experience, and I couldn’t ask for a better on-the-ground teaching practice opportunity. The students are all great fun to work with, and I’m continuously impressed with how much effort they put into a two-hour class, at the end of a long workday, with families waiting at home. Amy’s lesson plans are always great, and I’m allowed to put my own spin on them when I see the chance to. I need to mock up a class schedule for Spring, but I’d love to go back and help again next quarter!

My internship at CASLS has been super rewarding. It’s great working with such a cool team, and of course it’s awesome to have my own desk! I was worried when I first started, knowing that Julie has a very hands-off managerial approach; but it’s been plenty easy to check in with her when necessary, and the rest of the team is super accessible for any questions or help I might need. My first project was working on a set of lessons for Games2Teach for the game Papers, Please, which is a super fun puzzle game that just so happens to naturally brim with pragmatic goodies. I’m all done with the rough drafts, and I’m just awaiting some feedback now. While that finishes up, I’m starting to work on cleaning up another existing CASLS project, called the Place- and Experience-Based Database for Language Learning (PEBLL). Basically, it just needs a little TLC to make sure current entries are up-to-date before more are added. I also get to attend the weekly curriculum meetings, which have been super fun and useful for developing my curriculum designer’s intuition. It’s also so inspiring to hear everyone throwing ideas around!

Any final thoughts?

Mmm…nope!

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Hope you have a great last few weeks of Winter term!

February 18, 2018
by Trish Pashby
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Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) Certificate at the University of Oregon: Meet the Director and Current Students

The University of Oregon offers a certificate in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT), which undergraduate and graduate students can acquire while completing their degree in any department. The certificate requires completion of three courses in second language acquisition/teaching, three courses on the target language, and an internship or practicum experience.

We interviewed the Director of the SLAT Program, Professor Melissa Baese-Berk, to find out more about this certificate and what it offers UO students.

  • How did you get involved with the SLAT program? When I started at the UO in 2013, I taught LING440 (Linguistic Principles and Second Language Acquisition), which, at the time, was one of the introductory courses for the SLAT program. A year later, I began a term as the interim director of the program, and took over full time as the director of the program the year after that.
  • What are some of your duties? I have a lot of hats in the linguistics department, including teaching and research responsibilities outside of the SLAT program. Within the SLAT program, I often teach LING444 (Second Language Acquisition), which is the first class many of our SLAT students take. In my role as director, I work with advisors for the other languages where we offer a SLAT certificate to ensure our curriculum is up-to-date and rigorous. I also work to help advertise our program across the university. And I serve as an advisor in the program, so I often meet with students to create a plan of study, to help arrange internships, and to help plan post-graduation experiences.

    Professor Melissa Baese-Berk, Director of the SLAT program

  • What should students know about how it works and what it offers? The program offers an exciting and dynamic approach to understanding second language learning and teaching. The courses range from the highly theoretical (LING444: Second Language Acquisition) to active teaching practice (LT437: Second Language Teaching Practice). This gives students a real leg up when they actually get into a classroom to teach after graduation. The amount of instruction and practice our students get during the certificate program exceeds the minimum recommendations from TESOL International and is substantially more rigorous than many other TESOL or TEFL certificates. From a practical perspective, students should know that the SLAT program consists of 7 courses and can be completed in as few as 3 terms. We have more information about how to plan what courses to take and when here: https://slat.uoregon.edu/course-calendars. Students should also note that if they are currently completing a Bachelor of Science, we also require them to demonstrate proficiency equivalent to two years of college instruction in a non-native language. Students completing a Bachelor of Arts will complete this requirement as part of their university-wide graduate requirements.
  • What do you like best about it? My favorite part of the program is our students! I really love their enthusiasm and passion, and they make my job much more rewarding. I also really love the structure of the program. I think it offers a really nice balance so our students are not only attractive to employers, but are also prepared to succeed in the classroom.
  • What kind of students are drawn to this program? Typically, students who are interested in languages and language teaching. They come from a wide variety of majors across the university, which makes the courses really dynamic. Some students come in with lots of language learning experience and others have relatively little. Some students come in with a background in linguistics, while others have never heard of linguistics before taking their first SLAT class. The wealth of backgrounds and experiences enriches our classes and ensures that the material is accessible to a broad audience.
  • How do students use the SLAT certificate after they graduate? I would say most of our students focusing on English complete the SLAT certificate so that they can teach English abroad. They often use this as an opportunity to travel and explore cultures outside of the US. Some students discover a passion for education and enter volunteer service programs after graduation, like Teach for America or the Peace Corps. Some students also use this as a springboard for graduate education (including our LTS program–see below*). Because many schools and universities in the US require a Master’s degree in order for an individual to teach, some of our students decide to pursue post-graduate education in order to have a greater breadth of opportunity.

Natasha Willow at the American English Institute

Meet three current SLAT students: Natasha Willow, Quynh Tran,                      and Ellie Yeo…

What is your major?

NATASHA: I’m an undergraduate majoring in Chinese.

QUYNH: I’m a Linguistics major.

ELLIE: Linguistics and Chinese.

How did you find out about the SLAT program?

NATASHA: I found out about the SLAT program when I was looking into majoring or minoring in language teaching.

QUYNH: I knew SLAT from my advisor when I met her the first time in orientation. I asked her what should I take besides LING classes since my dream is to become a second language teacher. She introduced me to the program and encouraged me to become a part of it. Until now, I’m still thankful that I asked.

ELLIE: My Linguistics Dept advisor, Prof. Eric Pederson, told me about it after I told him about wanting to be a language teacher.

How would you describe your experience in the program?

NATASHA: This program has given me wonderful opportunities including co-teaching a class at the American English Institute (AEI) and preparing my English language course for when I teach in Taiwan starting in Summer 2018.

QUYNH:I love this program so much. I’ve learned so many new things everyday and met many good friends. I learned how to become a helpful teacher to my future students. I was taught not only teaching methods but also how to solve some normal classroom issues as well.

ELLIE: So far, it has been amazing. My LT classes have been my favorite classes every term. Honestly, they are the only classes where I actually do all of the readings assigned.

Any highlights you’d like to share with us?

Quynh Tran (left) with LTS students Reeya Zhao and Yuxin Cheng

NATASHA: Since I have been a part of this program, my language teaching skills have greatly improved and I have developed a teaching toolbelt that will continue to grow throughout my teaching career.

QUYNH: I love how diverse all of my LT classes are. I also think that having both undergrad and grad students in the same class is really awesome. I learn a lot from my classmates’ journey.

ELLIE: Getting to know the graduate LTS students has been one of the highlights of this program. Everyone is so welcoming, and never have I been in a class where so many people had the same interests as me!

Would you recommend SLAT to others?

NATASHA: I would recommend SLAT to anyone interested in language teaching no matter how experienced or inexperienced they may be. The teachers and students that you will meet in the program are the most wonderful people who encourage you and work with you to help you become a better teacher.

QUYNH: YES!! A very big yes!!

ELLIE: Yes! Definitely! And for linguistics majors, this program is the perfect way to understand the application side of linguistics.

What advice would you give to students who are interested in the SLAT certificate?

NATASHA: Join SLAT!

QUYNH:   Try one class and you’ll never regress.

ELLIE: Try to get a job working with second language learners so that you can be exposed to as many different students as possible. Also try to get to know as many faculty members in the field, because they are a very beneficial source of information.  

What will you do after you graduate?

NATASHA: I will teach in Taiwan starting in Summer 2018.

QUYNH: My plan after I graduate is to go teach English in Korea.

ELLIE: I plan to spend two years in the Peace Corps and then return to the States for graduate school.

Elli Yeo traveling in Thailand

We wish Natasha, Quynh, and Ellie our best wishes for successful completion of the program and an exciting future in language teaching!

*SLAT credits apply toward the LTS MA:

Students who have completed SLAT courses at UO can apply up to 15 credits towards the LTS MA degree. LTS MA alumni who first completed the SLAT certificate as undergraduates include recent graduates Aska Omata (2017), Dan White (2017), Kateland Johnson (2016), and Ava Swanson (2016).

February 11, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Rebekah Wang (2017-2018)

It is my pleasure to introduce you to LTS Student Shulei Wang (2017-18):

Hi Rebekah! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Hello everyone! I’m from Taiyuan, Shanxi, China. If I were to pick an animal to represent my personality, it would be a kitten. If I were to pick an object to represent my personality, it would be a rose.

Nice choices! Have you been enjoying the LTS program so far?

Yes! I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was little. How I narrowed down that I want to teach language(s) is because language acquisition is a part of my daily life. I’m not a native English speaker, and I learn and practice English every day. Language acquisition is a fun and surprising process.

It really is! What are you hoping to learn/gain from the program?

I want to learn how to teach. Being a teacher seems easy…I mean, everyone has been to schools and knows how a teacher’s’ job looks like, but it’s a lot more than that. A big part of teacher’s job is not seen by students. Classroom management is also very challenging too…When I was in school, I was a naughty kid and I really liked those class clowns. Haha.

Rebekah Wang teaching her Chinese Club students

And I know you are involved with the Chinese Club at Edison Elementary School–how has that experience been going?

It’s been challenging but is helping me learn a lot! Proficiency levels are very different. Some students are just beginning to learn Chinese, and some students just came to the states recently from China and have been studying in Chinese schools for several years. We only meet once a week, and it’s on Friday afternoon. This term, students’ motivation can be low, so I need to think of creative ways to inspire them- thankfully I am learning ways to do this in the LTS program.

You do the Chinese Language Circle too right?

Yes. Currently all participants can’t converse yet. We covered numbers, basic greetings, seasons, and a portion of pinyin. Please join us on Mondays at Mills International Center from 4 to 5 to learn some basic Chinese. Everyone is welcome to join. No background needed.

Rebekah Wang (right) with LTS classmate Ngan Vu (left)

Any final thoughts?

Eugene is a nice place to live. There is usually no traffic jams which is so nice as opposed to big cities. It’s small enough that I can get anywhere in 20 minutes, but it’s also big enough that it has almost everything, so it is a great size. I’m going on my sixth year here living in Eugene, and am still enjoying it.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview! I’ll have to come practice my Chinese sometime!

February 4, 2018
by Trish Pashby
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Devon Hughes’s Fulbright Practicum in Taiwan

Recent LTS graduate Devon Hughes (Fall 2017) spent her final term in the program as the first Fulbright Taiwan FSE Teacher Practicum Program Grantee (based out of Changhua County). We were delighted to find out more about her exciting adventure.

Devon Hughes hiking in the Central Mountains

What were your main activities and responsibilities?

As I was piloting this internship for both LTS and Fulbright Taiwan, I got to determine my own schedule and duties, with the guidance of a local English resource coordinator. I set three primary learning goals from which came my activities and responsibilities.

First, I sought to gain experience teaching in junior high EFL classrooms while encouraging and developing EFL students’ learning motivation and ability. I did this by teaching weekly at three junior high schools in Changhua County. I also observed and presented at various schools around the county.

Devon with student in Changhua County

Second, I wanted to broaden my perspective – as well as that of the local teachers and students – on international issues while gaining insight into the Taiwanese EFL education system at all levels. I worked toward this goal in various ways. I traveled around Changhua County to observe and chat with both Taiwanese and native English-speaking teachers about their classroom experiences, techniques, and views on local and federal education policies. I was an observer and occasional guest lecturer in two undergraduate TESOL courses at the National Changhua University of Education. I also participated in English military service officer meetings at the Changhua International Education and English Teaching Resource Center (CIEETRC) so to learn how military officers with advanced English proficiency and experience living in English-speaking countries support their schools’ English language learning goals. I even attended an international conference with the CIEETRC director on international education for primary and secondary schools.

My third learning goal was to assist in developing English teaching resources and materials and to share English teaching strategies with Changhua County English teachers. I did so by working weekly at CIEETRC on materials development, delivering professional development workshops, and meeting with elementary and junior high school teachers and principals. Together, we worked to increase critical thinking and English use in Changhua County classrooms.

What were some of the highlights of the experience?

Devon with other Fulbright grantees at beach cleaning event

How much time do you have? Haha!

An initial highlight was meeting the other Fulbright grantees at orientation and hearing about their fascinating work. They had come to Taiwan for a variety of reasons and represented a wide range of academic backgrounds. I had the chance to get to know some of these Fulbrighters better at subsequent events like Double Ten Day, Thanksgiving, and a beach cleaning service trip.  Each time, I thought, “Whoa. What cool people!”

Speaking of cool people, I got to see some familiar faces while abroad. The night I arrived in Taiwan, I had the great fortune of crossing paths with friend and former AEI colleague Rachel Drummond. She introduced me to another former UO duck, Lydia Shen, and we went out for massages and food at a local night market. Words can’t describe how incredible it was to arrive in a foreign place and immediately connect with a dear friend. A few weeks later, a former AEI student from Taiwan visited me and took me out for lunch and groceries. Such meetings with friends throughout my stay made “halfway around the world” feel like a much smaller distance.

Devon at President Tsai Ing-wen’s Double Ten party

Perhaps the biggest highlight was Double Ten weekend when I got to host my husband, who flew 24 hours each way to spend 96 hours with me. It was wonderful to show him around and to experience Taiwan with him, if only for a few days! I also had the incredible opportunity to attend President Tsai Ing-wen’s Double Ten party along with other Fulbrighters and dignitaries from around the world. I felt like I was in a comedy as I wobbled in my 5-inch heels on the red carpet and told people drinking cocktails, “Oh, I’m here teaching junior high English.”

There were many elements of Taiwanese culture itself that were highlights – the warm and sunny weather, the food (e.g. bubble tea, xiaolongbao, beef noodle soup, fresh tropical fruit), the night markets, and, most especially, the hospitality of the people. Oh, and the scooters! Every time I hitched a ride on the back of a friend’s scooter, I was overcome with awe. As we zipped through crowded streets or up mountain switchbacks, I could only think, “Wow. I am in Taiwan.”

Devon (right) snorkeling in Penghu

Speaking of travel, many highlights were my weekend trips around the island. Solo trips were made easier by Taiwan’s wonderfully efficient public transportation system. I got to explore big cities like Taipei and Kaohsiung, as well as natural sites like Taroko National Park, the central mountains, Penghu (an island archipelago off the west coast) and the southern beaches. One fond memory was snorkeling with a small group of Taiwanese tourists and feeling the language barrier fade away as we squealed and pointed out clown fish and coral.

Okay, one final highlight: I was staying in one night, scrolling through my LINE (social media) contact list when I suddenly realized that around 95% of my contacts were newfound Taiwanese friends. This may sound unremarkable, but to me it was wonderful because I had lived abroad before and had found that ex-pats tended to gravitate toward each other and make insular friend groups. I went to Taiwan hoping for a different experience. A more immersive experience. So, when looking at that contact list of colleagues, university students, and random friends, I felt a wave of gratitude. I had travelled alone to somewhere new, where I didn’t speak the native language, and had managed to make friends! I believe this is largely in part to how generous and warm the Taiwanese people are.

Devon (right) with her Changhua University of Education (NCUE) friends at temple of the Great Buddha statue (大佛寺) in Changhua City

Did you face anything especially surprising or challenging?

Yes, both. Some major challenges in the classroom were a) teaching junior high school students beginner-level English while keeping it interesting and relevant b) working with some students only once due to a quantity over quality approach and c) what my colleagues and I perceived as an overreliance on the L1 (by both teachers and students). I had many conversations with fellow teachers, professors, and the CIEETRC staff about how to best tackle these issues.

My biggest challenge, however, was not in the classroom. Halfway through my stay in Taiwan, I was involved in a head-on car collision during a trip in the mountains with a colleague. Thankfully, neither of us were injured, and I had friends and strangers help me back home to Changhua. Being involved in an accident so far away from loved ones was scary enough, but another, more traumatic car accident years ago made this situation even tougher to process. I found myself faced with the question, “Am I going to make a ____ decision out of fear?” Was I going to cut my internship short and return home? Would I avoid taking car and scooter rides? Would I keep traveling solo? I am so glad I had a support network both at home and in Taiwan to help and encourage me through that time.

Prof Frank (NCUE English dept.), Devon, and Frede (CIEETRC director) beside NCUE in Changhua

As for surprises, I was taken aback by the instant warmth and generosity of the people I met. I received so many thoughtful gifts and invitations. I can never pay them back for their kindness!

Another surprise was the peace that comes from feeling safe (almost) all the time. It’s wonderful. Taiwan is one of the safest places in the world. Experiencing that… travelling without fear (though always with a proper level of precaution), walking down streets without comment, getting lost with little worry… was a breath of fresh air.

A final, funny surprise was how Taiwanese food often reminded me of food from home (North Carolina). Taiwanese mom and pop restaurants serve what Americans call “sweet tea” at most

Devon trying “stinky tofu” at the Changhua Night Market

meals, collard greens cooked in pork fat, and beef stew that rivaled my grandmother’s. It was wild to try a “new” food only to discover that it tastes like home.

How has this experience contributed to your strengths as a language teacher?

My time in Taiwan helped me become more of a self-starter and willing to take risks, both in and out of the classroom. Since it was such an intense experience, I had to be flexible in new, high-stress situations, while remaining mindful of the needs of my students, co-teachers, and stakeholders. It made me a more well-rounded teacher as it provided me the opportunity to work for the first time with junior high students and beginner proficiency levels. I also honed my class observation and teamwork skills through multiple classroom visits and later discussions with colleagues. I also led several professional development workshops, which forced me to stay current and mindful of my own teaching practices. Finally, this experience abroad fostered in me a greater empathy for language learners. Living halfway around the world in a foreign language environment is a very humbling experience!

Devon (front center) with 9th grade students

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about this experience?

If you get the chance, visit Taiwan! You won’t regret it. Especially if you’re a tea drinker. The best oolong! 

What advice would you give an LTS student who is planning to do this internship in the future?

If it makes time and money sense, go for it! Be flexible and ready to say “yes” to any opportunity. What you put into it is what you’ll get out of it (if not more). Yet, also remember to check-in daily with yourself and take care of yourself!

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