Student Spotlight: Devon Hughes
- Tell us about yourself! What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend my free time exploring wherever I am: FaceTiming with my husband back in New York, cooking, playing piano and singing, reading, learning how to weight-lift, and catching up on and writing for Misadventures Magazine, an adventure magazine by and for women. I recently wrote a poem (using what I studied in undergrad!) about adjusting to life in grad school so far away from home and loved ones. Feel free to check it out here.
- Tell us about Women Teaching Women and future plans you may have.
After being out of school for 5 years and working a few jobs unrelated to TESOL, I started to become restless. I found myself daydreaming about teaching. When I envisioned my “ideal” classroom, I realized it was always the same: women of various language backgrounds learning English together in an engaging, warm, and intellectually stimulating environment. One day, I finally decided to see if such a school, institute, or company already existed where women taught other women English. So, as you do when you have a question, I googled it – “women teaching women English.” The first search result was a free downloadable textbook, created by the University of Oregon’s American English Institute (AEI) for the U.S. Department of State in collaboration with a non-profit in Lebanon whose primary aim is to empower Lebanese women. I appreciated how this non-profit viewed English education as just one of many tools for female empowerment. Months later, as I was narrowing down my graduate school search, I remembered the Women Teaching Women textbook and the University of Oregon, and I decided to apply to the LTS program.
What’s been really great about this program so far is how, almost immediately, I was able to research and write about my area of interest for my classes, connect with the professor who took the lead on the Women Teaching Women textbook project (Dr. Leslie Opp-Beckman), who in turn connected me with the director of the non-profit in Lebanon. I’ve only just begun my time here in Eugene, but I’m already being encouraged by the program faculty to ask questions, make connections, and get involved in the field. I can’t thank them enough for their support!
Short-term, I want to continue working the vision of my “ideal” classroom into the questions I explore in my research papers and the lesson plans I create, and hopefully that will aid me in my Master’s project. I have a hunch that it will be about the possible benefits of women teaching women English and what the opportunities in that specific classroom could be. Long-term, really, who knows? I look forward to seeing what opportunities may arise through my connections with the LTS program and the AEI, be it the chance to work on materials for the non-profit in Lebanon, going abroad to teach women English language learners, or looking into possible classroom models geared toward women here in the states.
- You’re a GE (Graduate Employee) for the American English Institute 2016-2017 school year. What is that like?
Exhilarating! After being out of the TESOL classroom for 4 years, it’s great to be back and have a classroom full of English language learners! It’s a lot of work balancing teaching every day at the AEI with a full load of Master’s level classes, grading papers, lesson planning, homework. But it’s the work I want to do! I feel like having those years outside of the classroom gave me the energy I needed to dive right back in. Perhaps I’m in over my head, but I’m really thankful for the opportunity to work in the field I’m trying to get back into as a way to finance my education. What’s really cool is how, every day, what I’m covering in my LTS classes can be turned right back around and applied in my AEI Oral Skills class. Some of it is trial and error, but I think that’s necessary for any type of learning.
- What are you most interested to learn or do in the LTS program?
I’m most excited to learn about how to be a “great” teacher. I’ve always studied my teachers, taking mental note of what makes them great in my opinion, so I’m curious to discover what are those elements for successful teaching, according to the research and practice in the field.
Video Blog Update!
We checked in with Devon to see what else she’s learned from participating as a GE for the AEI over the past few terms. Watch here to see how her experience has progressed until now!