LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

April 29, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni post Yuri Liu

Hello Yuri! Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Yuri at work

Dàjiā hǎo! 大家好!Hey everyone – this is Yuri speaking! Here comes a little story about myself!

Born in Shanghai China, I moved to the U.S. in 2010 for graduate studies at the University of Oregon. I started with a Master’s program in Educational Leadership at College of Education. After a year, I was fortunate enough to meet some friends from LTS and found that the program was a perfect continuation of my Bachelor’s study in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign language. Therefore, I decided to study two master’s programs concurrently in 2011 and was so lucky to be able to finish both by summer 2012. Generally speaking, a graduate like me can easily have wanderlust – where there’s a job, there’s a home.

Beijing Trip with Student

Not surprisingly, I moved to San Francisco for my first job, teaching Chinese in an elementary immersion program – the first one in the United States! It was a great year for me when I learned and accumulated a lot from my teaching experience. Yet, I must have became a secret Oregonian. Nostalgia brought me back to Portland in 2013. I started working for a newly established Chinese immersion program in Beaverton. It has been a good five years here. Thanks to all the useful study in LTS, I became the program director after two years of teaching at the school. Then recently I realized that wanderlust perhaps is the true me – just a month ago, I accepted a position at Singapore American School and am going to continue to devote myself to the field of Chinese immersion education. I am excited to realize that it is being a professional of foreign language education that makes us willing to ceaselessly wander the world…

My 1st Grade Science class

Can you tell us more about what you’ve been doing professionally since you graduated from LTS? 

I first worked as an associate teacher at Chinese American International School (CAIS) in San Francisco, teaching Chinese in a 1st Grade and a 5th Grade classrooms. After a year, I joined Hope Chinese Charter School (HCCS) in Beaverton and worked as a Chinese immersion teacher as well as the Chinese curriculum coordinator. In addition to developing the Chinese program benchmarks and curriculum for HCCS, I taught students all subjects areas in Chinese from 1st – 4th Grade. In my 3rd year at HCCS, I became the director of the Chinese immersion program and the lead Chinese immersion teacher. My job responsibilities range from program and curriculum development to Chinese faculty mentoring. I also wrote the STARTALK grant and got accepted for two years to implement the student and teacher training programs in Portland, which definitely helped consolidate my skills in language program development.

My 1st Grade Math

So now you are off to your next adventure in Singapore – what will you be doing there, and how does it fit with your future career goals?

I will be teaching in their newly established Chinese immersion program and hopefully make my own contribution to their Chinese teacher professional learning community. Though it seems that it was a step-down move, it will be instrumental as I have never worked at an international school and it is always a field I’d love to explore on my career course. I am always interested in educational leadership at international schools. I believe this will be a necessary transition to lead me toward that goal.

With my LTS studymates

What did focus on while you were a graduate student at UO? 

I actually had different yet later connected focuses in my two graduate programs. I focused more on comparative education in my educational leadership program, and teaching strategies for increasing language proficiency in my LTS MA project. With my post-research in Chinese immersion education after graduation, it is so apparent that language education should always be intertwined with cultural learning and studies. The teaching techniques could also be varied or fused between different educational systems. At least Chinese immersion education can speak to that – we teach American students with an American-based curriculum and certain Chinese schooling rituals. I will definitely continue with my research in this area and hope to extend my study into the impact of foreign language education on school systems.

NCLC Presentation

What has ended up being most useful for you as a teacher from what you learned in LTS?

The second language teaching principles and the theories behind second language acquisition vs. language learning are really the essence to help me understand how language proficiency should be developed. I can never forget Celce-Murcia’s representation of communicative competence, which really became the theoretical basis I go by while developing my language teaching strategies. I was able to have a good understanding on the national standards for learning languages, thanks to what I have studied about Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in some of the LTS courses. In a nutshell, the learning in LTS helped me tremendously in my language teaching career. It was my first time to trust that college/graduate studies can actually greatly benefit the career practice.

Looking back, do you have any advice to current or future LTS students?

No. 1, study well, pay attention to what you are/will be learning with LTS, because whatever you have experienced with LTS could become very instrumental to your language teaching career (if that’s what you choose ultimately).

No. 2, better not neglect the study of the theories and always pilot any strategies that you create with a real class body. I am not an empiricist, neither a rationalist. I believe we should rely on both to reflect back and forth. Sometimes theories inspire a way. Sometimes practice finds the theory. Last but never the least, enjoy what you are learning and what you will be doing as a LTS fellow!

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.

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