LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

August 22, 2018
by zachp
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LTS 2018 commencement and words of wisdom

This past Saturday, August 18, 2018, 11 incredible individuals felt the accumulation of 15 months or 2 years of hard word, perseverance, and knowledge building. Smiles, laughter, and tears of joy were seen throughout the ceremony. The two overarching themes for the day were inspiration and community.

For inspiration, a quote from LTS director Dr. Keli Yerian’s commencement speech captures the beauty and complexity of language teaching: “Language learning is like a  4-dimensional puzzle that you live inside while you are solving it”. As the graduating students saw in their classes, helping students learn a language is not always a simple if>then formula; rather, each students is on their own journey with every new word, text, and social interaction. It is then teachers who help facilitate students’ understanding of these complex puzzles and help them feel empowered to want to continue to solve it.

For community, the graduating students will be dearly missed, but the good news is they are forever part of the LTS family. As LTS faculty member Laura Holland said in her speech to the graduating class, “Welcome to the family.” By this she means the LTS family but also the family of language educators and leaders.

Messages to the new cohort

With every new academic year the LTS family continues to grow. To help the new LTS student cohort as they begin their Fall term in Eugene, some LTS faculty and graduating students had the advice below to share. When Laura Holland welcomed the graduating class into the family, she also summed up everyones’ feelings about the incoming cohort, “Welcome to Eugene and to the LTS Program. We’re so happy you’re here!”

Self-care and study breaks

  • Make sure to find your own balance between working hard and self-care. This is a short program, so you can’t afford to procrastinate or dawdle, but you won’t make it through with your sanity intact without listening to your brain and body when they tell you they need a break. Balance is key! – Logan Matz
  • Build breaks into your day, sometimes taking an afternoon for a hike can be just what you need in the middle of a tough term. – Lee Huddleston
  • Don’t forget to get some exercise and take care of yourselves. Mount Pisgah is a wonderful place to walk and run- close to town, but you feel farther away. Try some of the trails other than the main walk to the summit – there is a longer trail that loops around the whole park, and a trail that goes along the river. Have a great beginning of the year! – Prof. Joana Jansen
  • Maintain a balance in your life! Of course we want you to focus on your studies and work hard, but Eugene is full of interesting and wonderful opportunities for just about any interest. Explore some of these. Find groups or activities that match your hobbies. Make friends and connections outside of just our program. You’ll have a more authentic experience in Eugene this way. – Prof. Andy Halvorsen
  • Take study breaks and get some fresh air. Every time I went for a hike, I noticed an immediate positive affect on my mental and physical health. In turn, it helped me be more effective when I returned to working. Plus, there are so many beautiful hikes around Eugene. – Zach Patrick-Riley

Challenge yourself and keep an open mind

  • Challenge yourself, take chances, this is the time to experience and learn. Apply for a GE position, take a challenging class that interests you, do that internship (I did all 3 one term, you can too).  This year will really be what you make of it, so make the most out of it. Tell Keli what you are looking for, she is an awesome resource! – Lee Huddleston
  • Wake up early!! – Kunie Kellem
  • Keep your minds open to new practices and ways of looking at language education and right from the start, begin a portfolio of teaching ideas and practices you can take with you, even if the varying practices seemingly contradict each other. This is excellent practice and will help you build your “teaching toolbox” with many ideas you can use in a variety of teaching contexts your path may take you on. – Prof. Laura Holland

Plan ahead

  • I’m sure everyone will tell you this, but start thinking about your project early, make sure it’s something your passionate about, something that you won’t get burnt out on. Bounce ideas off of everyone, teachers and cohort members. Start double dipping, designing things for your project in other classes. Every final project/ lesson plan that you write should ideally be toward your target context. – Lee Huddleston
  • Try to find a purpose or a goal for this MA program as soon as possible. The earlier you decide your research areas, the easier it will be in the last two terms.  – Logan Matz
  • To the incoming cohort, welcome to Eugene! You’ll be really busy in the program and there is a lot to learn. Think about how all this information is applicable to your goals, your teaching situation, and the students you will have. – Joana Jansen
  • The term system in UO is much more intensive than the semester system, especially for those who are used to the semester system. Therefore, to reduce the stress, maybe start planning midterms and finals earlier so you don’t have to finish everything at once at the end. Try to think about the topic for your final MA project as early as possible and relate the work you’re doing for the current courses to it. – Krystal Lyau
  • It is a good idea to not procrastinate things. Many things can come up as time goes, so do whatever you can when you have time.  – Kunie Kellem
  • My suggestion is to really stay in touch with what you personally want to get out of this program because one year will go by fast and before you know it you will be writing your final project. I would also suggest to read some other students’ final projects who have graduated. There are a few students who will be continuing their LTS program for a second year, so it could help to utilize their knowledge if needed (I am one of the students who will still be here). One last suggestion, I would read as much as possible and keep a list of all the readings you are doing. You can write notes about what each reading is for easy reference back to something that you may want to use in your final paper. Learn how to skim read because you may have some times when you just cannot read the entire reading in time, but also make sure that you know how to accurately site your resources. For me, one of my favorite things about grad school is research, research, and more research. Usually that means reading about other people’s actual research and I find that a lot of the work hinges on that, so get used to that right away. – Shayleen Eaglespeaker

Turn to each other as a resource

  • Every previous cohort that I have observed since 2009 benefited from turning to each other as a resource to help each other with academics, paired projects and camaraderie. In addition to forming study groups, they have taken trips and hikes together, had parties and gained strength from the group. This helps almost everyone thrive in the short but intense program, and not only makes for life-long memories, but gives you a group of dedicated people you can continue to turn to after finishing the program and move to your next phase. – Prof. Laura Holland
  • Really take the time to get to know your other cohort members. Make frequent efforts to study together, and most importantly, hang out together. They will be your greatest resource over the next year. Lee Huddleston
  • Ask for help. You have a group of faculty and support staff in your program that want to help you. If you are struggling with anything, talk to someone. One of the biggest mistakes people sometimes make in a new program is waiting too long to ask for help. Big questions or small, just ask it! – Prof. Andy Halvorsen
  • It is very helpful for some of the students to study together, since many of the classes will be with your cohort. – Shayleen Eaglespeaker
  • Don’t hesitate to talk to your cohort or the faculty of the program if you are having some difficulties. They are all willing to help. – Krystal Lyau
  • Go out with your friends or cohort every once in a while. Grabbing a coffee, drink or even sweets and talking with them can make you feel better. – Kunie Kellem

The final piece of advice comes from 2017-2019 LTS student Shayleen Eaglespeaker who says it is important to stay true to yourself and who you are. “Don’t be afraid to be different. Each person is coming from a different background and has a point of view that can offer a lot to your peers, so my advice would be to embrace that!”. Her words apply to the entire family, as this individuality and mix of backgrounds is what makes the LTS program so special. Congratulations again to those who graduated and best of luck to those who are just getting started. May you forever continue learning, challenging yourself, supporting your colleagues, and following your dreams.

Pure elation from the 2018 LTS graduating class and LTS faculty members.

 

August 15, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight: Liatris Myers

LTS students can publish too!

Lia Myers graduated from LTS in 2015 and recently published her MA project in the ORTESOL Journal. Her project title was Integrating Instruction on Pragmatically Appropriate English Oral Requests into IEP Courses in the U.S. 

Me hiking in Cocora Valley in the department of Quindío, Colombia.

What was your project about, and what prompted you to consider publishing it?

My project was about teaching pragmatically appropriate English oral requests to adult ESL learners studying English in the United States. Working in the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, I had observed that there was a strong tendency for ESL learners at all language proficiency levels to make oral requests that sounded rude to Americans and that this caused social problems for the learners who did not intend to be rude. I wanted to understand why this situation existed and how it might be resolved. It was Keli Yerian (the LTS Program Director) who suggested publishing the project. She had just read for the first time the chapters where I explained my conclusions from my research and what I was proposing to do, and also my initial draft of pedagogical solutions. Going to meet with her to discuss it, I was really nervous because what I was proposing was very unconventional – I felt it was what my data said needed to be done but I’d never heard of anything like it – and I was worried she would say it was no good. Instead, she said I really had something to contribute to the field and I should publish it. It was one of the proudest moments of my life!

Lia’s article. It is noteworthy that in the same issue another article by LTS faculty Andy Halvorsen and LTS 2018 student Kunie Kellem is also published.

What was the process?

From the time Keli told me I should publish I intended to do it, but after graduation life was very busy starting my teaching career and I didn’t complete the first draft of the manuscript for publication until after my first school year of teaching. However, I’m glad it happened that way because in the intervening time I had the opportunity to gain more practical teaching experience including with some of the techniques I discussed in my project, which enabled me to improve my manuscript with examples and suggestions from the classes I had taught. I first submitted the manuscript to the TESOL Journal, but they rejected it because it didn’t have the type of research they were looking for. I used their feedback to rewrite it and submitted it to the ORTESOL Journal. They responded that it was interesting but they thought it would be more appropriate as an extended teaching note rather than a full-length feature article (the category for which it was submitted) and invited me to rewrite it for the extended teaching note category. So I rewrote and resubmitted it, and the paper was finally published in the 2018 edition of the ORTESOL Journal (available here: https://ortesol.wildapricot.org/Journal2018). So that was three drafts of the manuscript for publication with each draft being reviewed by some combination of Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley (my project advisor), Jim Myers (my dad who has always edited my work), as well as TESOL and ORTESOL reviewers, all of whom gave me feedback to use to revise and improve the manuscript.

How much does your published article resemble your project – what had to change?

The biggest change was I had to make it a LOT shorter. The original project is 143 pages including end materials, but what was finally published is only 10 pages. This meant I had to really distill the project down to the essential points. I also added examples and suggestions from my post-graduation teaching experience and made many changes to both the writing and the content of the manuscript for publication based on feedback from TESOL, ORTESOL, Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley, and my dad, though the core ideas remained the same.

What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS, and what are your future plans?

Oh gosh, I’ve done so many things since I graduated from LTS. Besides getting my MA project published, I taught ESL/ESOL at INTO OSU (Corvallis, Oregon) for several months, then at Chemeketa Community College (Salem, Oregon) for seven terms. While at Chemeketa I wrote and piloted the entire curriculum for a new course on basic computer skills for learners who don’t know how to use a computer or who have a low level of English language proficiency or both. It has since been used by several other teachers in Chemeketa’s ESOL program and I’ve had really positive feedback on it. I also presented on integrating instruction of digital literacy skills into ESOL courses focused on other topics such as reading and writing, listening and speaking, etc. at the Fall 2017 ORTESOL Conference. This year at the beginning of January I travelled to Medellín, Colombia to have the experience of moving to a new country where I didn’t really know the language to look for a job. Seven months later I know Spanish well enough to manage my own affairs in the language, have worked at a private school (preschool through high school) in the Medellín area for a few months, and learned to dance (Colombian salsa). In September I’m headed to Japan to teach at a university there until late January. After that, who knows? There’s a whole world of possibilities out there…

The goodbye message, card, and food from the goodbye party that one of my groups of 5th graders gave me on my last day at the school I worked at in Colombia

Any advice you have for current or future LTS students?

In terms of choosing a topic for the project, I recommend identifying a problem in which you are interested, then figuring out why it exists and how to solve it. Later, if you want to publish, have practical experience with your solutions before you write it up for publication and draw on those when writing your manuscript. Be prepared to do much revision and have people around who can read the manuscript and give you good feedback to help you make it better. When you submit it, choose a journal and category that really fits what you have. Finally, don’t be afraid to pursue an unconventional idea that really seems right. It may be the novel approach that’s needed.

August 7, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight: Tiffany Van Pelt

This alumni post focuses on the international adventures of Tiffany Van Pelt, who graduated from LTS in 2015 and was one of the first students to post on our LTS social media. Here is an update of what she has been doing since then.

Tiffany with soursop

What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS?

Since I graduated I have been living and working in Libreville, Gabon in central Sub-Saharan Africa. I first came here for a 6-month internship with the Gabon-Oregon Center, then returned to work in various language schools over the last two years. I teach general English courses, English for Specific Purposes, and TOEFL preparation courses to adults and teens, and I have provided some professional development training to local English teachers enrolled at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Libreville. I also do French to English translation work.

What has been most meaningful for you about living in Gabon?

For me this answer has two aspects, the professional and the personal. Professionally, the most meaningful thing for me has been being able to work with my students over the long term and watch them improve. It’s so fulfilling to see students going on to use their English skills in their professional lives outside the classroom. 

ESC meeting July 2018

 Personally, the most meaningful thing about living here has been the ability to rebuild my fluency in French to the point where I can clearly express myself and form deeper friendships in my community. I have a BA in French from the UO, but spent about a decade without speaking it on a regular basis. It’s a dream come true to be able to live in a francophone country and regain those language skills, and I believe it helps me remain empathetic and encouraging towards my students as they work to reach their goals in English.

I hear you have an exciting new adventure coming up – could you tell us about it?

Yes! I recently accepted a position as the 2019 English Language Fellow for Madagascar. I will be leaving Libreville in January to begin work there with the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Antananarivo. I will be working with local teachers to train on implementation of a new secondary school curriculum, as well as visiting teachers around the country to provide professional development seminars. In addition to this, I’m hoping to be able to provide some extra ESP instruction to local groups as opportunities arise.

What do you hope to learn as an ELF?

I am hoping to learn how to navigate working with local governments and institutions a way that is productive and beneficial for everyone involved.  I’m also looking forward to learning from and brainstorming with the local teachers. I am excited to get their perspectives and ideas towards the implementation of pedagogical innovations in environments that may have a substantial lack of resources. 

Thanksgiving in Gabon

Now that you’ve been teaching for awhile, what do you think has been the most valuable aspect of your time in LTS?

There is very little access to English books, save for those few that are imported, in Gabon. It’s very difficult and expensive to receive shipments of goods from abroad. The curriculum and materials development experiences I had in the LTS program have been invaluable in mitigating this issue and helping me develop my personal library of teaching materials. 

Do you have any advice for current or future LTS students?

I have three pieces of advice for LTS students: first, take as many opportunities as you can to get in the classroom and practice! Second, start building your materials libraries now, (particularly if you plan to work abroad), as part of your smaller projects for classes or as part of your final project. These resources will come in handy later. Finally, take the time to cultivate and maintain friendships with the LTS community. Teaching English isn’t for everyone – much less living abroad! The friends that you make during the program will understand your passion for this profession and will be a huge source of support and community both now and in the future.

 

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