LTS

Language Teaching Specialization Blog Site at the University of Oregon

March 16, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Valeria Ochoa

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Any hobbies?

I was originally born in S. Lake Tahoe, California but have spent most of my life in Las Vegas, NV. To stay close to home, I decided to attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I got my B.A. in Romance Languages (French and Spanish). During my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Pau, France and Heredia, Costa Rica. Both of these experiences studying abroad have helped to shape who I am now and fuel my love of language learning/teaching. It also helps that I love to travel (hard to find a language teacher that doesn’t), and I sincerely enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds. One more fun fact about myself is that I love watching/playing soccer. Go FCB!

You’re a GE for the Romance Languages department. What is that like?

Yes, for the past two terms I have taught first-year intensive Spanish. This course is intensive in that the students have already had at least two years of Spanish learning experience, so the class moves through the units quicker than if it were a class of true beginners. This upcoming term I am going to be teaching Spanish 203, so it will be interesting to see how much the learners are expected to know from the end of first year until this point. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

Teaching Spanish here at the UO has been insightful, but honestly quite exhausting at times. Balancing your personal needs and the needs of your students can get pretty tricky, but when you see how much your students are progressing, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. Teaching while doing LTS at the same time is not for the weak-hearted; however, I do think it serves as an invaluable experience in which you can directly apply what you are learning in LTS to a real class.

Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your Master’s project?

My master’s project is going to be a teaching portfolio for Spanish Heritage Language Learners (SHLLs). I am currently looking into creating activities that integrate service-learning, since heritage learners often report learning their heritage language for the purpose of connecting to their family members and their communities. As a SHLL myself, this project is especially important to me because I want to create a teaching portfolio that not only promotes language proficiency and community engagement, but that encourages heritage learners to value the knowledge they already have as rich and important. So far it has been extremely interesting and kind of fun to research these topics. I cannot wait to start the process of actually creating the activities!

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?

Unfortunately, UNLV does not have a Linguistics department, and I was set on doing something related to linguistics for graduate school, so that meant I had to start looking for a place that suited me. Lucky for me, while searching through program after program, I ended up meeting my now fellow cohort companion, Becky Lawrence, on Facebook through mutual interests. After she explained that everything she was learning was directly applicable to real language teaching situations, I was convinced LTS was the place for me. I have not regretted my decision since. Many of my peers in other departments often tell me how they wish they would have done LTS rather than what they are doing. It feels good to know that I am in the right place.

One thing I am looking forward to doing is starting the process of collecting information from heritage learners and teachers for my master’s project. I want to know what they enjoy and do not enjoy about their SHL classes. I want to find ways to satisfy the needs of these learners, since we know their needs are different from that of L2 learners. It should hopefully be an enlightening and satisfying process.

 

Video Blog Update!

Valeria returns to update us on her GE experience, switching from teaching 1st-year Spanish to leading the 2nd-year course. She also shares with us how her project focus has evolved since joining the Master’s project class this Spring term!

March 1, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Christopher Meierotto

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done before joining the LTS program?

Home is where I have loving family and close friends. I’m originally from the foothills of Colorado, but I’ve bounced between there, Germany, Austria, and South Korea before moving to Eugene with my wife, Jiyoon, last year for school.

Growing up the Rockies, I’ve always loved being outdoors among nature. I like to snowshoe, camp, backpack, fish, and climb mountains. I spent nearly half of my childhood sleeping in tents in nature. I also love reading, cooking, gardening, building things, drawing, and I enjoy taking pictures when the mood hits me. When I have time and money, I love traveling, learning about foreign cultures, and trying to learn foreign languages. Actually, the experiences I had learning foreign languages have directly affected my teaching, and knowing a foreign language even helped me get my first language teaching job.

I’ve had many jobs. My first job, when I was 14, was building hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains. I have also worked in a kitchen, as a mover, a landscaper, in maintenance, for a political party, in an insurance company, and for a TEFL certification program. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I got my start in teaching ESL in the Denver area through some local non-profits. Since then, I’ve taught both English and German, and I’ve worked in adult education with immigrants and refugees, in the South Korean public school system, in an intensive English program, and now as a GE for the American English Institute’s matriculated international undergraduate classes.

Each of those teaching contexts has brought with it a different perspective on how language is learned and how connections across cultures are made. I’ve always tried hard to make a connection and build a relationship with my students. Having learned foreign language, having been an exchange student, and having worked in a country where I was a minority have helped me relate to my students’ experiences. I’ve worked with a lot of students from many of different backgrounds, and I always aspire to be a positive influence in their lives. In turn, they’ve always impressed me with their perseverance, and my heart sings when I see them succeed using something that I helped them discover.

Tell us about being a GE with the AEIS program?. What does that entail?

It’s busy. Seriously though, I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience working as a GE for the AEI. They have a wonderful supportive and expert staff, and there are tons of opportunities for professional development offered through the AEI’s programs. I was even able to showcase a unit on teaching debate at an in-house poster session at the AEI which some of the staff have been using in their work. Teaching the AEIS classes is also a perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet at an American university level of ESL instruction. I taught AEIS 102 – Advanced Academic Oral Communication in the fall, and I’m currently teaching AEIS 112 – Written Discourse III (Research Paper). One benefit of being a GE at the AEI is that I can complement my classes with the research and coursework that I am doing in the LTS program. I am happy that I’m able to incorporate research-backed strategies and pedagogical approaches in my lessons to help our international undergraduates develop the linguistic skills that they need to thrive in the university context. I have also been able to utilize some of the CALL aspects that I’ve learned as an intermediary for supplemental instruction. The synergy created between both places is also really helping challenge me on a new level of instruction and to think beyond my previous language teaching experience, especially on the curricular level, and I am just happy to be a part of both programs.

I will say that working at the AEI as a GE does have its challenges. Being a sole instructor allows me the freedom to take control of the course curriculum so long as it aligns with the course goals, student learning outcomes, and assessment. However, with that, there is a lot that I need to dedicate towards planning and structuring of both the lessons and curriculum, as well as with providing students with useful feedback. Luckily, the methods and pedagogical approaches that I am learning as an LTS student can be directly applied to my courses, and I can develop my curriculum beyond a holistic level. I can see my growth as a language teaching professional, and seeing my students succeed makes the extra effort worth it.

It’s getting close to Master’s project time. Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your project?

My proposed MA project is inspired by my first AEIS 102 course that I taught in the Fall 2016 term. I was looking for authentic materials to use to help my students build listening strategies when I noticed that I kept coming back to public radio broadcasts not only to set the context but also to structure the lessons. When I used them in class, I received a lot of positive feedback from my students, and I was surprised how much of a diverse plethora of contexts and genres that were readily available. Because of this, I decided that I want to build a materials portfolio around using public radio in combination with other multimedia as a complement to a matriculated university oral skills curriculum to teach listening. I want to develop an array of activities that can be used to teach not only the language, but also the paralinguistic language that surrounds it. The project is still in its initial stages, but I’m looking forward to diving into it this coming spring.

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?

I chose LTS for a number of reasons. First and foremost, when I started to look at graduate programs a few years back, I reached out to Dr. Keli Yerian while I was teaching in Korea. She helped to put into perspective the strengths that the LTS program had over other TESOL or theoretical linguistics programs. I liked that the degree focused on language teaching, and with that, I’ve been able to work on English, German, and a little bit of Korean in my coursework. Also, the multilingual approach meant that I would be able to work with a highly diverse and international cohort. This aspect allowed both my wife Jiyoon and I to apply and study together even though our language focus is different. I was also attracted to the fact that the program highlighted implementing technology into the language classroom and language assessment. I knew that these two aspects would be integral in my professional development. A final reason why I chose the LTS program is because of the other resources available on this large campus. I am currently taking an elective on grant proposal writing that I’m sure will help me to find funding for any future non-profit language programs that I decide to volunteer or work for.

In the terms to come, I am looking forward to learning about assessment and how to teach pronunciation. Looking at my teaching now, I know that I need work in both of these aspects. I am also excited for the opportunity to start working on my MA project. The nice thing about being a student here at UO, especially in the LTS, is that opportunities open up for students all the time.

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