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.
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.
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.
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.