This week, we are pleased to feature UO faculty member Lara Ravitch, who works with the LTS program in a number of ways: guest lecturer in LT courses, MA project committee member, and advisor to the teachers of the Chinese Club at Edison Elementary School. Read on to find out more about these and many other interesting projects she works on here at UO and beyond.
What is your position at the University of Oregon?
I’m a Senior Instructor in the American English Institute (AEI). I am back in the classroom now after several years coordinating our Intensive English Program
What courses do you teach?
The AEI has several different programs with a wide variety of courses, and it’s expected that any given faculty member will be able to teach most of them with minimal lead time, so I teach lots of different things! I’ve taught upper-level reading and writing, lower-level speaking and listening, and student success in the IEP. I’ve also taught an eLearning course for educators around the world looking to improve their skills as teachers of young learners, and I’m currently teaching AEIS 112 and 101.
What was your path to the University of Oregon?
I majored in Russian, so after graduation from college, I wanted to spend some time there, and the easiest way was to get a job teaching English. After two years teaching in a variety of contexts in Moscow, I realized I enjoyed this work but I needed more training, so I returned to the US to get my MA in language teaching at the Monterey (now Middlebury) Institute of International Studies. During my MA, I focused on teaching both English and Russian, as well as concentrating in Language Program Administration. After graduation, I adjuncted for a year in Monterey before moving back home to Chicago, where I taught ESL and English Composition at Harry S. Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. It was an incredible experience that gave me opportunities to work on committees re-developing teacher education for the State of Illinois, improving language assessment protocols across the city, and supervising about 50 adjunct faculty in my department. The students were incredibly diverse, coming from Nigeria, the Philippines, Ukraine, India, Ecuador, Sudan, Bulgaria, Mexico, Vietnam and many other countries. I learned a ton from my amazingly dedicated colleagues and students, but after almost 10 years in the city, we decided we needed a change of scenery and looked for opportunities out west. I was excited to come to the AEI at University of Oregon because of the high level of professionalism. After working in a department where part-timers outnumbered full-time, tenured faculty by more than 2:1, and where the teaching was so intensive that few availed themselves of the limited funding for professional development, I was excited to come to an institution where all of my colleagues would be full time (and thus actively invested in developing programming and supporting students), and where professional development was both supported and expected.
What is your connection to LTS students & what do you enjoy about working with graduate students?
I have worked with LTS in several capacities. I’ve done quite a few guest lectures in various classes, teaching lessons on bilingualism, lesson planning, and outcomes-based curriculum design. I love helping to give LTS students a sense of how their learning applies in various teaching contexts.
As IEP coordinator, I also worked with LTS students to match them to observations and opportunities for research. I loved reading research proposals and am always curious about the results of the studies!
In addition, I’ve been a reader for two MA projects, both dealing with Russian teaching. I was extremely impressed with both products, which filled gaping holes in the field and would be of great use to practicing teachers.
Last (but definitely not least!) I advise the LTS students who teach the Chinese Club at Edison Elementary School. Three LTS students take turns being the teachers of about 10 young children who sign up to spend their Friday afternoons learning Chinese. I meet with the LTS student teachers once a week to discuss the previous lesson and plan the next one, and then whenever possible, I observe the classes and give feedback. It’s a delight to work with such creative and diligent student teachers and to watch the children participating actively and enjoying Chinese language and culture even at the end of a full week of school!
What other projects are you involved in?
I’m participating faculty in the Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (REEES) program, and this winter, I’ll be teaching a Russian Theater class, which includes a big final performance in Global Scholars Hall! In the summers, I run a Russian language immersion program for 8-18-year-old campers in northern Minnesota. I’ve also just begun a second MA in Special Education here at UO! I do a lot of presenting and teacher training, generally on topics related to experiential learning, alternative assessment, LGBTQ issues in language teaching, and learning differences.
What advice do you have for future language teachers?
Our field is broad, our learners are diverse, and there is always opportunity to try something new. Don’t worry about mastering it all now – instead, adopt a reflective, lifelong-learning approach and focus on continuous improvement!