Kelsey Hertal graduated from LTS in 2015. Her project was designed with the intention of heading to Latin America, which she did but not for her expected reasons as you will see below! The project was titled, Integrating American English Pragmatic Instruction in Tourism Training Programs in Latin America: A Materials Portfolio.
Kelsey (middle) with one of her classes in Columbia
Hi Kelsey! What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS?
My story is about how to stay patient when at first you don’t succeed, and always remember that something good might be just around the corner!
When I graduated from LTS, it took about 4 months for me to find a job. I looked everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE) to find a job and no language school, international school, university, or community college was ready to hire me. I remember it was incredibly discouraging and I felt that all my hard work in LTS was useless!
In November of 2015, Keli emailed me about an immediate job opening at INTO Oregon State University. They urgently needed extra teachers because of their high enrollment numbers that term. I applied and immediately received a call asking for an interview. The following day I drove to Corvallis, interviewed, got hired on the spot, and was scheduled to start teaching the next morning. The only word I have to describe that morning was chaos, as they gave me my teaching material 15 minutes before the class started. However, with my adrenaline running off the charts and my heart beating a thousand times per minute, it was one of the most amazing teaching moments of my life. LTS prepared me 110% for jumping into a teaching environment with no plan and coming up with material on the spot.
My contract at Oregon State was supposed to last 6 weeks, but at the end of the term, the students wrote a letter of recommendation to the INTO OSU administration team begging for them to keep me on the teaching staff. To my surprise, OSU offered me a contract for the next term because I “impressed” them so much with my rapport with the students. I worked as an adjunct at OSU for a year and a half, and it was more exciting and fun than any teaching job I could have imagined.
At the end of my first year, I happened to meet a Colombian recruiter at an INTO OSU end-of-year work event. To make a long story short, we fell in love (yes, I know that took you off guard!), I quit my job at OSU, and I moved to Colombia in April of 2017. As soon as I arrived in Colombia, I had an interview at Marymount School Medellin and I was hired immediately as a High School English teacher.
I started the job in the middle of the school year, and once again, had very little preparation for what I would be teaching. I truly feel like LTS prepared me to hop right in to a teaching job that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for.
We got married this past July and we’re loving the newlywed life. I’m still working at the same school and I absolutely love my job as a High School English teacher. Although I never expected to teach high school, I wouldn’t change it for the world and I am so thankful for my students, the great teaching environment, and the classes I get to teach.
What a story! What have you enjoyed most (and least) about teaching so far?
My favorite thing about teaching is being with the students. I love seeing the “lightbulbs” turn on in the students’ minds and I love seeing learning actually take place.
I have the freedom to create all my materials, lesson plans, and activities for all my classes. And not only that, each class is based on a novel. So far, I have created units on the following books: Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare), What I Saw and How I Lied (Judy Blundell), My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult), and To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). I can definitely say that teaching English through literature is the most fun thing in the entire world.
The thing I like least about teaching is dealing with unmotivated students who don’t want to learn, and as expected, I don’t love grading! 🙂
What has been something you learned while in the LTS program that you apply to your teaching now?
I learned so much in LTS that I apply to my teaching now.
- The course on Culture, Language, and Literature (LT 528) helped me tremendously as, in my context, I teach English through literature on a daily basis in all my classes. While I was taking this class in LTS, I thought it would be really cool to teach English through literature but never thought it would be a reality for me. You never know where you’ll end up and what will actually come in handy in the future!
- Learning how to truly write well. I can say I really learned how to write academically through completing the Master’s project. In my classes now, I teach my students academic writing, how to research, how to cite with APA format, etc. Without having put so much effort and attention to detail in my Master’s Project, I wouldn’t have been so equipped to teach this. Again, I didn’t necessarily expect that it would come in handy, but it did!
- Like I mentioned before, through LTS, I learned how to jump into a teaching situation and figure out what to do on the spot. My teaching practicum (LT 537 Talking with Ducks) helped me with this greatly. It certainly helped me have confidence in front of a class and how to be creative without time to think.
- Time management! As I’m sure with any Master’s program, you learn time management. However, if you don’t have time management skills, you will not survive as a teacher.
What are your hopes or plans for the future?
To be honest, I am incredibly happy where I am right now. I would like to stay here for at least two or three more years. I actually have fell in love with teaching high school English and literature, and I think maybe someday I would like to teach literature in an American high school. So far, life keeps throwing me surprises and each opportunity keeps getting better.
Do you have any advice for current and future LTS students?
To any current and future LTS students, my advice would be:
- You may think you have an idea of what you want to teach, but life may throw you something different, and it will probably end up being better than what you could have imagined for yourself.
- Don’t give up if you can’t find a job right after finishing your degree. Be open to any job opportunity that life may give you and when the right opportunity comes, you won’t be disappointed.
- Be truly grateful in the workplace. I have experienced working with many grumpy and unhappy teachers. Although teaching is a hard job, if you want to survive, you have to stay positive, be thankful for the job you have, and remember the difference you are making in your students’ lives.
- Try your best in each class in the LTS program. The topics in each class will come in handy in the future whether you can see it or not.
- The Master’s project is a life lesson; it gives you valuable skills for life. It teaches you how to be disciplined and how to manage your time. It teaches you how to give your best when you’re exhausted and feel like you can’t keep going. These skills will help you more than you can imagine in your teaching career (and in your personal life).
- The Master’s project gives you the opportunity to enter into the world of academia and it teaches you how to become a writer and find your voice. Recognize the importance of this and how you will use these skills in your future career.