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Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

November 19, 2017
by pashby
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LTS Alumni Presentations at 2017 ORTESOL Conference

This year’s ORTESOL (Oregon Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) conference was held November 10th and 11th at the University of Oregon. The American English Institute hosted the two-day event in Agate Hall, which turned out to be a fine venue. The conference featured two plenaries on the theme of “Supporting Diverse Learners” and over 50 sessions facilitated by presenters from all over Oregon and beyond. Several LTS alumni were among these presenters. Read on for highlights from some of their sessions.

Maggie Mitteis and current LTS student Lee Huddleston

In a well-attended and highly interactive session titled “Teaching Tools for the Resilient Classroom” Maggie Mitteis (2016) introduced favorite activities of hers and fellow Peace Corps teachers accustomed to teaching in settings with limited (or no) technology and requiring much flexibility on the part of instructors. We played variations of the word game Taboo, an adaptation of Jenga that included language practice, and  a few raucous rounds of “Stop the Bus.” A group competition using letters from Bananagrams was also a big hit. All of these games were highly motivating and adaptable to almost any language classroom.  Note: These days Maggie is teaching locally at both Lane Community College and Downtown Languages.

Misti Williamsen

Misti Williamsen (2010) shared ideas for motivating students to read in her presentation “Going Beyond Summary: Engaging Students in Extensive Reading Through Projects.” She has found success inspiring lower level students at the American English Institute’s Intensive English Program to complete books through active participation in projects. In this session, Misti shared four of these: drawing character maps or timelines on posters, creating their own quizzes, videotaping a “commercial” for a book, and writing stories combining characters from multiple books. Misti brought along actual examples of all of these. Posters drawn by students covered three walls, and the audience was treated to the screening of several creative and highly entertaining student-made videos.

Liatris Myers

Liatris Myers (2015) presented “Digital Literacy Instruction in ESOL Courses: It’s Easier Than You Think”, which was inspired by her recent experience of creating a course and materials for teaching technology to low-level learners at Chemeketa Community College in Salem.  This session included step-by-step guidelines for approaching the design of this type of course, interacting with students, and creating learner-friendly materials. Admitting that she never considered herself particularly tech-savvy, Lia attributed her current comfort with using technology in the classroom to the four 1-credit CALL (Computer Assisted Language Learning) courses she completed while studying in the LTS program.

Jeff Magoto, Bené Santos, Joliene Adams, and Emily Masucci

Another popular session at ORTESOL was “The In-Class Flip: A Case for More Inclusion and Success” presented by Bené Santos (2009) and Joliene Adams (2017) with Jeff Magoto (faculty) and Emily Masucci (Anthropology Department graduate student), which featured a videotaped example taken directly from Bené’s Portuguese class at University of Oregon a week before (the clip is also part of a documentary by Emily Masucci about Bene’s life ). The example showed how to successfully implement blended learning by creating a classroom environment where students can go at their own pace in terms of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Joliene Adams presented the software H5P, which is a great interactive video tool teachers can use inside or outside the classroom.  In the second half of the session, participants had time to interact with H5P, engaging in blended learning themselves, and discussed ways they could blend/flip their own classrooms.

Other presentations by LTS alumni were “Creating ESL Textbooks Using Open Source Materials and Digital Tools” Sean McClelland (2011); “What We Teach: Conundrums in English Variation” Kelly McMinn (2007); and “Facilitating the Development of Argumentation Across Programs” Ilsa Trummer (2011).

LTS faculty also presented at the conference. Jeff Magoto is mentioned above co-presenting with Bené and Joliene. Laura Holland’s session “Working Backward Propels our Students Forward: Small Changes < Big Effects” covered (1) teaching pronunciation of individual words and practicing stress in longer sentences, (2) analyzing what makes 2 essay introductions “good and “bad,” (3) using film clips to explore why native speakers chose the forms they did to express the messages they are trying to convey, and (4) Backward Design for curriculum development.

See the full conference program here: ORTESOL 2017 Program  

October 19, 2017
by pashby
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Six LTS Alumni Teaching at Tokyo International University

LTS student George Minchillo submitted this report on LTS alumni currently teaching at Tokyo International University. George is there now serving as an intern and will graduate from University of Oregon at the end of this term.

Please Give us a Brief Overview of Tokyo International University

Brick wall with shield and title of Tokyo International University

Welcome to Tokyo International University!

Tokyo International University is a Japanese university in the greater Tokyo area. Although the Global Teaching Institute (the university’s English language program and faculty) has only been around for close to 5 years, you wouldn’t be able to tell from its staff of about 50 instructors and the wide variety of activities and events that it sponsors for the university and surrounding community!

One of the biggest and most important missions of the GTI is cultural globalization and international cooperation, which is evidenced by the E-Track program (English Track: classes are taught primarily in English with some Japanese as a Second Language courses) comprised of students from many different countries who have come to Japan seeking a degree in Business, Economics, or English communication. The other program the GTI offers is the J-Track (Japanese Track: mostly Japanese students earning a Japanese degree) and this is comprised of the required English courses that all students at the university are required to take.

Six LTS alumni are currently members of the TIU faculty: Becky Lawrence, Ryan Felix, Annelise Marshall, Brandon Bigelow, Kodiak Atwood, and LeeAnn Genovese.

A woman showing a cell phone to a student

Becky Lawrence showing her Basic Writing student a photo about her experience at a Japanese festival.

What classes do you teach at TIU?

Becky: I teach four classes in the Global Teaching Institute. Three are core classes for J-Track students learning English. For these core classes, I teach Sections 3 and 4, which are pretty beginner levels (the levels go from 1-28). I teach English Comprehension (Reading) to both Sections 3 and 4, and Basic Writing to Section 4. The other class that I teach is Advanced Reading and Writing, and I teach the highest level of this particular class, which is an elective for J-Track students who are mostly juniors and seniors. I really enjoy all of my classes because they each present unique challenges. I like that I get to experience teaching beginner students and advanced students at the same time. It makes me more creative, and I regularly use techniques and activities that I learned in LTS!

Ryan Felix warming up his students with an exercise in frequency adverbs!

Ryan: I’ve been at TIU for four years now! Each year I’m assigned different classes to teach; this year I have reading and writing classes with Japanese students. I’ve also been teaching public speaking for the last three years in a separate program for international students studying business or international relations. At first, I was nervous about teaching it, having little public speaking experience myself, but I’ve learned so much!

Brandon: I graduated from the LTS program in 2013, and have been at TIU since September 2016. I teach English Comprehension and Basic Writing for freshmen Japanese students. I also teach Academic Composition for international students from countries including Vietnam, Uzbekistan, and Indonesia.

Kodiak Atwood posing for a photo with his students and co-teacher.

Kodiak: I’m currently teaching two listening classes and one speaking class to Japanese freshmen. The Japanese freshmen are really fun to work with and I have a lot of room to experiment and try new things out in the classroom. I’m currently implementing a gamified curriculum where all of the students are characters in a role-playing game and that’s going really well! I also teach an analytical reading and critical thinking course to international students. The international students are all advanced and occasionally native speakers, which is a welcome challenge and change of pace. We are able to cover really interesting topics and discuss complicated issues in class that I normally wouldn’t be able to do.Annelise: This year I’m teaching first year listening and speaking classes and a composition class focused on research writing.

George: I’m here as an intern, so I’m not regularly participating at the front of a classroom. However, there will be weekly opportunities for me to run a variety of workshops based on topics, skills, or functions that interest me (and hopefully interest the students). I also get to participate in a series of workshops for local Honda employees who are coming to the university for TOEIC training.

Which committee are you a part of?

Becky: All faculty are part of a specific committee that works to provide students to GTI faculty and students and make the GTI and TIU the best university it can be. I’m the SLI (Student Leadership Internship) Coordinator, which means that I work closely with J-Track and E-Track students who work part-time in the English Plaza. As Faculty Advisor, I’m responsible for ensuring that they have the support and training that they need to make the English Plaza a welcoming and educational place for all TIU students who want to come practice their English.

Annelise Marshall working with students in her Academic Composition class.

Ryan: I’m part of a committee that’s responsible for gathering and creating materials that teachers can use in their lessons.

LeeLee: Kodiak and I started our coordinator role: International Education Team. We started this role based on our observation that there is a lack of support for students interested in going abroad not related to the ASP (American Studies Program). The ASP is the largest study abroad program we have through TIU, where we send 120-130 students to Willamette University in Oregon for 10 months. ASP students have a lot of support, but other study abroad students are left to figure life out on their own. So, we decided to start doing what we could to help them. We do things like pre- and post-study abroad orientations, we advise and help students through the process of finding programs, we have even interviewed applicants to go abroad, and kept up communications with students as they were studying abroad. We have held multiple study abroad fairs in conjunction with the IEO (International Exchange Office). We discovered, encouraged, motivated and mentored international students (E-Track) currently at TIU to give cultural and educational presentations about their home countries in our plaza!

Kodiak: I am one of the International Education Coordinators. We are responsible for giving study abroad students the resources they need to be successful, creating opportunities for students to experience different cultures, and promoting internationalism around campus. We have been responsible from organizing the annual freshman trip to Oregon each year and give workshops and lessons related to study abroad.

Brandon: My committee focus is with the English Plaza Library, where I help maintain over 2,500 English books and continually add new and diverse options.

George: As the intern, you get to participate in all of the committees! I have a weekly rotation throughout all of the GTI committees that allows me to familiarize myself with their roles and duties, as well as help out with any of their current projects. At first it can be a bit overwhelming, but it’s also a unique opportunity and very insightful to see how the entire program comes together as a whole through these committees.

Brandon Bigelow posing with a group of students representing Indonesian culture for the TIU international fair.

What else do you do at TIU?

Becky: In addition to teaching, all faculty have to participate in either English Lounge, which is conversation time with students, or Academic Advising, which is helping with homework and essays. I chose to do English Lounge because I love talking with students every day. It’s awesome watching them blossom and try out new vocabulary and grammar as they talk about subjects they’re interested in.

Brandon: Additionally, I have the opportunity to chat with students on comfy couches about less formal, relaxing topics during English Lounge time.

Annelise: I also supervise the English-Speaking Society, a student-led club concentrated on using English for discussion and formal presentations.

George: I also get to participate in English Lounge and Academic Advising, which is pretty similar to the Conversation Partner program at UO. This has probably been my most favorite part of being at TIU, just because the students are fun to hang out with. At first it’s a little bit intimidating and it can be difficult to think of what to say, but then you realize that most of the students just want the opportunity to learn more about people from other countries and it becomes a very relaxing, fun experience.

Anything else you would like to share about TIU?

Becky: I really love working at TIU for many reasons. I love the wide range of students that I get to teach. I also love the working environment. All of the faculty are friendly and supportive. It’s nice to come to work and enjoy the people I am working with. It’s definitely like a family! We do things outside of work together, which is really nice when you’re living in a foreign country. It’s also nice to have a co-teacher that shares my same students, because we can plan our classes together and lean on each other for support. Not really TIU related, but I also really enjoy the Japanese semester system, because we have lots of vacation time. I’m looking forward to exploring South Korea, China, Thailand, and Taiwan in the upcoming months!  Finally, I really love that I have a network of LTS alumni here at TIU. It feels like a little piece of home even though I’m thousands of miles away!

Ryan: Teaching in Japan and at TIU has been an invaluable experience. I’m learning another language and culture—making friends and participating in local events has been personally very fulfilling. I’m also getting a better sense of what it means to be a professional in this field. Being a member of the Japanese Association for Language Teaching gives me access to talks and literature, as well as my own professional development opportunities. A great big thank you to LTS professors, and our great leader, Keli, who prepared us well to be in the field. It’s working!!

Walking into the TIU Campus Plaza, one can view the flags from many nations around the world.

Annelise: I love that at TIU I get to work with both Japanese students and international students from all over the world!

Brandon: TIU is incredibly welcoming. There is abundant respect and consideration for both the students and instructors. Being a part of the TIU community has been a true privilege.

Kodiak: I really enjoy working here! My coworkers and students are great, the class sizes are small, and I am able to try new and interesting things out in the classroom! 

George: One of the best things about TIU is that the working environment is very low stress. In my previous experiences studying Japanese and learning about Japanese culture, I had heard that the working environment in Japan is often one of high stress and long work hours. While each member of the GTI team is certainly busy, and may occasionally need to work a few additional hours, there is no sense of stress and everyone really seems to enjoy their time here. I really hope that I can become part of the team myself one day!

 

October 14, 2017
by zachp
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Spanish Language Learning APP LingroToGo!

Check out today’s post about a revolutionary Spanish language learning application called LingroToGo. Featured is Dr. Julie Sykes–our very own LTS faculty member and Director of CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies)–along with a couple LTS students who have worked on the app.

Dr. Julie Sykes presenting to the LTS cohort about CASLS and LingroToGo

Julie, thank you so much for joining us today. Please share with us what makes this APP so special:

LingroToGo is the first comprehensive app that explicitly targets language learning strategies, pragmatics, and function-based language learning. Moving beyond the translation of words and phrases, the app really helps people work on how to use the words and structures they learn in a meaningful way.

What about the pragmatic component of it?

Pragmatics really focuses on the exchanges of meaning and the avoidance of miscommunication whenever possible. It is exciting to see pragmatic components of language treated systematically throughout the app.

And there’s video too?

Yep. There are a robust set of videos that focus on strategies and pragmatics, the two pieces of a language learning curriculum which are often not seen in teaching and learning materials.

Awesome! And just curious, where did the name LingroToGo come from?

The Lingro part of the name comes from our collaborative partner, Lingro Learning and the ToGo piece parallels the name of one of our other tools, LinguafolioToGo, a comprehensive e-portfolio designed for language classroom.

LTS (2017) alum Dan White, who developed the Cryptogram feature of the Lingro App as his Master’s Project, had this to say about his time working on Lingro: “The Lingro App was a very fortuitous opportunity for me, as I was hoping to find a project that revolved around creating a game or puzzle for language teaching. I had never done app development before, but I was familiar with coding. Fortunately, Julie gave me the opportunity, and the app development team were very patient with me as I learned how to develop the Cryptogram. I was so pleased that my contribution made it into the final product, and it really stands out when you are using the app as one of the most challenging features. I can take this app development experience with me in the future, and I look forward to developing my own language apps.”

Current LTS student and CASLS GE (Graduate Employee) Zach Patrick-Riley: “This app is simply revolutionary. It does a perfect job of showing what 21st century education should include; not just a focus on language but strategies for successful interpersonal communication and autonomy building. My favorite part has to be the videos in each section. Maybe I am a little biased because I have helped create a number of them, but they are so fun and engaging to watch! Seriously, check out this app, te va a encantar y aprender español muy rápido.”

Other LTS students who have contributed to this app include Christopher Daradics (2016) and Valeria Ochoa (2017).

LingroToGo is available for download for IOS right now @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lingrotogo/id1273904866?mt=8

Android is coming very soon as well! In fact, if you would like to take part in Beta testing please sign up here:  https://goo.gl/forms/VSGlmNBIfBS26yL13

July 11, 2017
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Sarah Murphy

Sarah Murphy with graduates from her Informatica English class

Sarah Murphy graduated from LTS in 2015 and traveled straight to a position she found as an English Professor in Mexico. Her MA Project was ‘An Open Educational Resources Portfolio for Adult Education ESL’.

Where are you working now and what are you teaching?

I’m working at the Universidad de la Sierra Sur in the southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Mexican college students are required to complete a foreign language requirement in order to graduate, so I teach a variety of college level EFL classes.

What do you like best about what you do?

I love this job. It’s not without its challenges. Oaxaca is the poorest state in Mexico, and it can really be a hustle to make things work well. Having said that, I love my work. Our students come from tiny pueblos all over the state. More than 80% of them are first generation university attendees here on scholarship. It means a lot to me to work with these determined young people who are making this massive life change and socioeconomic leap. It’s just exciting to be a part of what they’re doing.

Additionally, the students bring me salsa made from flying ants, so my life is not dull.

What is something you learned while in LTS that you use in your teaching now?

Everything! I mean it. From writing exams to structuring classes and designing curriculum, I’ve used it all so far. I can’t think of any course that hasn’t been useful to me.

Maybe the most valuable skill I learned was how to grow a language learning course based on the needs of the learner (thank you, Keli!). Since entering the world of EFL, I’ve worked with many seasoned profs who were just never exposed to the process of designing courses based on a needs analysis or problematizing a context to exploit its specific advantages and tackle those inevitable obstacles. I am so grateful to have been trained in context-specific instruction and course design. It has informed every good decision I’ve made as a teacher.

Sarah with her enfermerfia English class graduates

Looking back, what advice would you give to current or future LTS students?

Well, I would say that you just never know what skills you’ll need to use in your future contexts, so absorb as much as you can.

I also think that transition from grad school to actual instruction can be a little awkward for some new teachers, so I can offer my perspective on being a newbie. There are no ideal contexts out there! New teachers can be really keen to affect positive change, and that’s as it should be. But listening and learning is also an important part of the first years of teaching (or just teaching in a new context). The LTS gives grads an amazing toolbox; teaching is about learning how to apply them well.

Don’t rush the process. Experiment and pay attention to what works for you and what doesn’t. Collaborate with other teachers and participate in observations as much as possible. I’m such a different teacher than I thought I’d be, and that’s a good thing!

May 16, 2017
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Hortensia Gutierrez

Hortensia Gutierrez graduated from LTS in 2014 with an MA project titled Teaching Forms of Address in Chilean Spanish to U.S. College Students. She worked at the American English Institute (AEI) for a few years before applying for her PhD studies in Spanish Linguistics.

Hortensia on the Georgetown campus, where she will pursue her PhD

Tell us about your good news about the next 5 years!

I am about to start a PhD in Spanish Linguistics at Georgetown University and I am very excited to start this new path in my professional life! During 2016 I had many experiences that pushed me to take this important step. I applied to six programs around the country and I was accepted to four of them with full funding for five years: University of Arizona, Indiana University, State University of New York Albany, and Georgetown University. My final decision to go to Georgetown was based on the faculty, the professional opportunities (outside the regular ones that any PhD program offers), and the solid instruction in all the areas of linguistics. In addition, I had two emotional factors to include: the fact that our beloved Keli Yerian is an former student of GU and the professional life of my husband.

Why did you decide to go on to a PhD? How did your experiences in LTS and otherwise lead you to this path?

I grew up in an academic environment that shaped my way of seeing life, learning to love questions and showing others my findings. At first, I became a high school teacher and I taught physics for more than 4 years in Chile, but it wasn’t until I came to the US that I found my true passion for linguistics: I liked physics, but I love teaching languages. For that reason, I decided to study in the LTS program and it changed my life. I believe that the first moment I thought about continuing my studies was when I started to work on my MA project. I was so passionate about the social and political aspects of language that I decided that I wanted to go deeper. I know that in the next five years I will find what I am looking for and more, and that makes me really happy.

What will be your areas of focus during your PhD?

During my M.A., I wanted to study the suppression of certain Spanish variation features in the traditional classroom, caused by linguistic ideologies in Latin America. Now, for my doctoral studies I would like to explore the dynamics of linguistic ideologies in areas of language contact. For example, I am interested in what happens when Mapudungun, a language spoken by the Mapuche community, is in contact with Chilean Spanish. This contact reveals elements that I would like to explore, such as bilingualism, heritage learners of Mapudungun, language revitalization, and the teaching of Mapudungun to the general population, among others. My ultimate professional goal is linked to my personal core value that pushed me to study Education in the first place: to use my research and work in academia to empower communities, encouraging people to understand and protect their identity.

Is there any advice you would give to current or future LTS graduate students?

People have different goals in life and different ways of reaching them, but I believe there is one fundamental element that is important to achieve them, and that is the passion for what you are doing. So if you want to teach languages or research languages, remember to always give your best.

January 26, 2017
by LTSblog
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LTS Alumni spotlight: Shannon Ball

Shannon in a moment of grammar teaching

Shannon Ball graduated from LTS in 2014 with a focus on teaching English. Her MA Project was titled Teaching Adult Community ESL through Children’s Literature and she now works full time at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. Shannon is an example of someone whose MA Project focus led her directly to a position that allows her to apply what she learned and created.

Where are you working now and what are you teaching?

I work at Lane Community College as an ESL instructor, an ESL Student Services Specialist, and an ESL Assessment Specialist. I love doing all of these jobs, because I get to know ALL of the students in the program, and not just the ones in my classes. I usually teach the low-beginning levels, but am currently teaching Writing and Grammar C, which is the third level of six in our Main Campus IEP. I love every minute of it!

What do you like best about what you do?

Just one thing?! I could really go on and on about what I like best about this job. The reason I got into this work in the first place was that I have a strong desire to contribute meaningfully to my community. The people who come through our program are active members of our community, and the benefits of their enrollment in our program are innumerable. When our students learn, they help other similar members of the community (their friends and family) by teaching them what they have learned and by encouraging them to come to the program as well. They get better jobs, which helps their families and the economy. They are able to participate more fully in the English-based education of their children by communicating better with teachers and engaging and helping with their school work. The effects go on and on. Another thing that I love about teaching to this community is that they come in highly motivated. They are so eager to learn, and to share what they already know with each other. I also love watching the relationships that my students develop. I had a couple of students last year who were different in every way: age (one was 21 and the other 63), culture, country of origin, L1, etc. But they sat together and helped each other in class, studied together after class, and spent time together on weekends, and the most amazing thing is knowing they are using English the whole time because it is their only common language. It’s a truly authentic application of the things they learn in the program, and it motivates them to learn even more!

What is something you learned while in LTS that you use in your teaching (or life) now?

I think the most valuable thing I learned and honed in the program was to connect every aspect of your lessons to a common purpose or objective. Always asking, and encouraging your students to ask, why you are doing a certain activity promotes active learning. Class time seems so limited that you need to plan well and make the most of every minute!

Looking back, what advice would you give to current or future LTS students?

Take every opportunity you possibly can to volunteer, intern, or do a graduate teaching fellowship while you are in school. I know grad school is a very busy time, but this can both valuably inform your coursework and provide authentic hands-on experience. A lot of US schools tend to require a minimum of two years of classroom teaching experience, so it is also good for your resume! My other piece of advice is to make the program work for you. LTS is such a flexible program and really allows for creativity and encourages innovation. If you have an idea, go for it!

February 16, 2016
by megt
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LTS Alumni Spotlight: Lindsay DeLand

Lindsay DeLand graduated from the LTS Program in 2014 and immediately began teaching in Japan. Her MA project was titled “Graphic Novels as Motivating Authentic Texts for Adult English Language Learners”.

Graduation Lindsay DeLand

Lindsay (on right) on commencement day 2014 at the University of Oregon with cohort members Richard Niyibigira and Sejin Kim.

Where are you working now, and what are you teaching?

I work at Tokyo International University in Kawagoe, Japan. I teach mostly speaking and listening skills to Japanese undergraduate students, but I also teach an academic composition class to international undergraduates from a number of different countries. It’s a blast!

Kyoto Lindsay DeLand

Lindsay in Japan

What do you like best about what you do?

I love that I get to make so many meaningful relationships with so many amazing students. For me, all the interaction with different people is the best part of the teaching job. I’ve learned a lot from my students, and I’ve gotten to watch them learn and grow a lot as well.

What is something you learned while in LTS that you use in your teaching (or life) now?

I learned how to design a curriculum, which has been invaluable to me since starting at TIU. Before the LTS program, I wouldn’t have had any idea how to go about planning a class when you’re just given a textbook and total freedom! It’s still a challenge for me, but I’m improving with practice, and I’m grateful for the foundation in curriculum design I got at Oregon.

Poster Presentation Lindsay DeLand

Lindsay presenting her action research at Thailand TESOL International this year.

Looking back, what advice would you give current or future LTS students?

Both while you’re a graduate student and when you become a full-time teacher, remember to make time for yourself on top of your work and studies. Teaching is a great job but it’s also very stressful and can be all-consuming. If you don’t find a way to balance a healthy and happy personal life on top of your work life, work will feel a lot harder! When I was an LTS student, I often studied with friends from my cohort to make the workload feel easier, and we regularly got together for fun to keep each other sane. Now, even when my semesters are busy, I make sure to do at least one fun and rewarding activity a week, like exploring a new part of Tokyo or just spending time with friends. It helps me refresh my brain so I can better tackle my job!

February 2, 2016
by megt
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LTS Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Chen-Mao Wang

Daniel Chen-Mao Wang graduated from the LTS program in 2008. His project was titled “Rethinking the Teaching of Beginning Reading: The Role of Reader’s Theater in the Taiwanese EFL Curriculum”.

Daniel (center) with his cohort in 2008

Why did you originally decide to study in the US?

Before I applied to the LTS program in 2008, I had been teaching in a public elementary school for a few years with a BA degree in Language and Literature Education in Taiwan. After a few years of mundane teaching that literally drained my inspiration, I started to look for graduate studies to both enrich my teaching career and energize my life of learning as a practicing teacher. The LTS program at the UO stood out as one of few programs that catered to my needs. The quarterly system guaranteed me very intensive five-term solid training and studying that my home country could never offer. When I read and compared many graduate programs, few addressed both the pedagogical and theoretical issues at the same time in their plan of graduate studies. While the course titles of many distinguished TESOL programs mostly featured on the theoretical issues, few stressed the pedagogical phase of language learning. With an educational background, I was certain that I wanted to be a practitioner but yet undecided for a theoretical route. Therefore, the LTS program gave me greater flexibility to take the courses I was interested in as a language trainer. Meanwhile, as LTS was in a Linguistics Department, this enabled me to associate with PhD students and participate in Professor Susan Guion Anderson’s advanced second language acquisition class. Although the LTS program was not fully research-based, the practical but research-oriented program design laid the groundwork for later research-based projects and presented me with opportunities to observe, learn, and experience a “scaffolded, elicited, and formative” language learning class. This helped me a great deal in my current job as an EFL elementary school teacher and adjunct assistant professor at the National Kaohsiung Normal University.

Where and what are you teaching now?

Less than half a year after graduating from the UO, I began the journey of being a full-time teacher and doctoral student at National Kaohsiung Normal University. I was fortunate enough to establish all the ground work at the UO with LTS and LING, and this experience has made me who I am now. My doctoral dissertation, titled “Effectiveness of a Reader’s Theater Project on English Silent Reading and Prosodic Reading Performance of Sixth-graders in Southern Taiwan”, took root in the framework of the project I did in the LTS program and used the phonetic analysis tool, Praat, that Dr. Pashby introduced in her pronunciation class.

Daniel in a recent photo with his family

Currently, with a PhD in TESOL, I also work with Taiwanese local college students teaching them Freshman English. The days nourished by the LTS program become the nutrients. The LTS program gave students the open space to develop and experiment with their teaching ideas, innovative or extended. In addition, the cohort format made us learn from each other, brainstorm many great ideas, and work all angles to possibly solve the issues language teachers faced on a day-to-day basis. Serving as a teacher of college students, I now still go back to my graduate assignment work to seek inspiration and I still keep in mind the very lesson that LTS taught me so well—analyzing students’ learning needs. Without the nourishment of LTS, I cannot imagine being the person I am now.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I enjoy the pleasure of teaching because I like to associate with people and especially with students. Many people regarded teaching jobs as repetitious and laborious, while I appreciate the beauty of individual difference and students’ willingness to learn and improve. Last year, I had classes with first-graders up to college freshmen. They were a huge range in population, but I experience the fun and joy to see the spark in their eyes when they find language learning interesting and are willing to go the extra mile to learn with the teacher. As a language teacher, I can always practice what I believe, and experiment with all kinds of variables to motivate my students and enhance their proficiency in English as a global language.

Looking back, what do you think was most valuable about your time in Oregon and LTS?

Three things stick to my mind during the days I was in Oregon: a) the live language teaching observations, b) the freedom to choose interesting courses from other departments, and c) the supportive learning and advising atmosphere.

To begin with, I benefited so much by writing observation journals about many language teaching classes. Given the privilege to sit in class and observe what the teacher did, I witnessed how language teachers deal with the teaching issues with students at different language levels and with different language backgrounds. I ended up observing very diverse types of language classes: Howard Elementary School’s reading class, a South Eugene High School’s English literature class, and a college-level CFL (Chinese as a Foreign Language) class. It was as good as I could wish for—to see what is demonstrated in a real class—more effective than any workshop or lecture could have been.

Secondly, I adored being given a few flexible time slots to take courses from other departments. I remembered that I attended a pedagogical grammar class, a culture diversity class, and a statistics class offered by the School of Education. Those classes required me to interact with the native speaking college students on education-related issues and develop educational professionalism. This experience enriched my career path and helped me become not only a professional “language teacher” but also a professional “educator”.

Lastly, the supportive learning environment in UO and LTS has made this adventure rewarding and worth admiring. Looking back, I enjoyed the time to work with the international cohort and hang out with each other outside the campus. The combination of students in LTS was like no other on campus. It was made up of experienced teachers, students with language learning interests, and ESL teacher wanna-bes, NNS or NS alike. Because of this mix, a lot of negotiation was involved. You needed to pay attention to listen, mentally process, comprehend, clarify, and then react to others in the classes because they were from all different backgrounds. Each person interpreted things in a different way. To be participatory, you had to put yourself into their shoes, consider from their perspectives to understand what they were trying to express, and then provide your own opinions. But the beautiful thing was: the more positively you interacted with one another, the better and closer relationship you built with your cohort. We felt like a family in this foreign country and the camaraderie support brought us together. A similar positive atmosphere was also between the teachers and the students. I always valued, although scared to death at that moment, the advisory office hours with each faculty member. The teachers did feel distant and authoritative; they were actually very helpful and considerate. They offered academic advice, helped clarify some thoughts on studies, suggested directions to do a term paper, etc. I talked to most of the teachers privately in office hours and I guaranteed what I say is true. The friendliness and thoughtfulness was not something you could only find in your imagination. It was genuinely felt.

What advice would you give to current or future LTS students?

LTS seems to be a program that is too good to be true. However, you have to keep in mind that this is a five-quarter program. Basically, you will have to squeeze the length and endure the intensity of five semesters into 15 months in order to fulfill all the requirements. Some take longer than 15 months to accomplish it. In order to make the most of your time and enjoy the intensity, my suggestions are:

  1. Start early to collect research literature that interests you.
  2. Frequent the library and establish your personal teacher resource library.
  3. Read the assigned readings and be a productive contributor in classes.
  4. Take advantage of every opportunity to make friends (or to know more people).
  5. Experiment with what you believe is feasible in your future language classes and explore it with back up literature.

With all these things to do in fifteen months, this short journey is going to be like a sealed time capsule—it will store valuable and memorable events and keep you rejuvenated every time you look back!

December 8, 2015
by LTSblog
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Alumni profile: Richard Niyibigira

Richard Niyibigira was a Fulbright recipient who graduated in 2014. His project was titled “ESP Course Design for the Tourism and Hospitality Industry in Rwanda”.

IMG_7731What and where are you teaching now?

Today, I teach English and communication skills at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Center (IPRC)-Kigali. It is a college situated in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda in Africa.

Tell us about your leadership responsibilities now.

Apart from my teaching responsibilities, I am an active founder member of the Association of Teachers of English in Rwanda (ATER) that started in 2008. I served as the Head of Professional Development and Partnership for ATER since my arrival from the UO until recently when I was elected by the General Assembly as the president of the Association. Today, ATER has approximately 100 primary and secondary teacher beneficiaries in the 5 of 30 districts of Rwanda.  The teachers receive a series of workshops and trainings for free in their Communities of Practice. The trainings are conducted by ATER members and an English Language Fellow (ELF) offered to ATER by the US Embassy in Kigali. Some of my achievements within the association as the Head of professional development and Partnerships are organizing the first ATER annual conference, the 1st US Embassy Access Microscholarship Program Conference and organizing workshops to teachers through their communities of practice.

Did your LTS MA project relate to what you are doing now?

My MA project is certainly related to what I am doing now. My LTS project was an ESP (English for Specific Purposes) course design for the tourism and hospitality industry. Although the specific course I designed has not been used in any school yet, the knowledge I gained through designing that course served me a lot in my job today. I conducted a workshop to revise a course called “English for Technology” within IPRC Kigali. Although the course was there since a long time ago, its content was in no way different from that of General English. We revised the course to make it specific to students in their different departments and in relation to their specific needs.

IMG_5283Are there any other important developments in your life ?

Apart from my professional life, I have also made some personal and social developments since I left beautiful Eugene. I got married three months after I left Eugene and now I have a 3.5-month-old son. I have a beautiful and happy family that I am proud of.  And yes, I got my driver’s license now, after trying to get it three times with failure when I was in Eugene!

Do you have any advice for current or future LTSers?

My advice to current and future LTSers is:

  1. Work as a group not as individuals: The LTS life does not end in class. One of the things that helped me enjoy my time in Eugene is the relationship with my LTS colleagues! You may find the courses hard and with very tight schedules sometimes. The only way you can go through that efficiently is to include your colleagues in your journey to the completion of the program. Do some self-studies together and have fun after class. Enjoy the beauty of Eugene and surroundings.
  2. Do your MA project in something you REALLY like! The terminal project process is a long and hard one. It might either take you longer to complete or make you quit before completion if you are working on something you don’t understand and like.
  3. Do NOT forget to visit the coast with your cohort! It’s so much fun.

IMG_5139

December 1, 2015
by Misaki Kato
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Alumni Spotlight: Marcella Roberts

Marcella with her students in Switzerland.

Marcella with her students in Switzerland.

Marcella Roberts graduated from LTS in 2010. Her MA Project was titled: Pronunciation for Integrated Skills English Courses: A Teaching Portfolio. Below, she shares how she has used things that she learned in LTS in many different teaching contexts.

Where did you teach after graduating from the LTS MA program, and where are you now?

Since graduating, I’ve taught both in the U.S. and abroad in Switzerland and China. Immediately after finishing the LTS program in August 2010, I taught at the American English Institute (at the U of O) for one year. After that I moved to Switzerland, where I taught on and off for three years at a residential summer camp for children aged 10-17 from many countries all over the world. I also taught for one semester at Arizona State University (between summers in Switzerland), and then taught at a university in China for 8 months in 2014. As of September 2014, I’ve been teaching in the INTO Intensive English Program at Oregon State University in Corvallis, OR.

Is there anything you use in your teaching now that you first learned in LTS? 

Definitely. The focus on Communicative Language Teaching, as well as all the practice developing curriculum and materials, has continued to help me throughout my career as a teacher. When I was teaching in Switzerland, I was given a class of students and pretty much no guidance on what to teach except for an estimate of their level. I therefore had to draw on all of my practice and knowledge learned in LTS with needs analyses, adapting, creating and using materials, as well as ways to make language learning authentic, communicative and fun for students. Throughout the rest of my teaching experience, which has been in university programs, where more guidance, materials and textbooks have usually been provided, the basic language acquisition and teaching principles that I encountered in the LTS program have still been invaluable.

What was your MA project about, and did you apply it later in your teaching?

My MA project focused on pronunciation, and specifically how to integrate it into classes focused on other skills (or on integrated skills). To do the project, I had to really delve into pronunciation and learn about it in depth, which has definitely helped me in my teaching experience since graduating. While teaching in Switzerland, I often did pronunciation focused lessons, as well as integrated it into other content and skill focused lessons. During the time I was teaching in China, I developed a four week mini course on pronunciation for university students, which included a focus on the International Phonetic Alphabet and in depth practice of segmentals and suprasegmentals. Since having started teaching at INTO OSU, I’ve also taught specific pronunciation elective courses, during which I’ve drawn on, and added to, the experience and knowledge I gained while doing my MA project all those years ago.

What was most challenging for you as a new teacher?

It was challenging at first to have the confidence in myself as a teacher to be able to adapt my original lesson plans to what was happening in the classroom. Through experience, I’ve learned that sometimes going with the flow, adapting activity lengths, and responding to questions or issues as they arise can be more beneficial than rigidly sticking with a lesson plan even when it’s not working. But this definitely took time for me to realize, as well as time to understand how to do it in a way that helps students and keeps everyone focused and learning.

Marcella with some of her cohort at graduation in August 2010. She is the one in the middle top of the photo.

Marcella with some of her cohort at graduation in August 2010. She is the one in the middle top of the photo.

What advice do you have for students looking for language teaching positions after graduation?

Use your time in the LTS program to learn and share with such a wonderfully diverse group of students from all over the world. Many of the language teaching positions (especially in teaching English) are in countries all over the world and knowing something about countries other than your own, as well as being willing to travel and/or live abroad, will be valuable assets in finding rewarding teaching positions.

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