Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Iryna Zagoruyko and I am originally from Ukraine. I moved to the U.S. 5 years ago. I got my first Master’s degree in Business Administration in Ukraine. After graduation, I worked as a manager of foreign economic relations at the Korean International Company in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. Also, in Ukraine I worked as an Interpreter of English for foreign economic delegations. After I moved to the U.S., I worked as a student specialist in the ESL Department at Lane Community College in Eugene. After that, I did my second Master’s degree with the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Department at UO, simultaneously teaching first- and second-year Russian courses as a GE for two years (2014-2016). Being a Russian GE really changed my life goals: I understood that language teaching is my passion and decided to receive more knowledge on that. Now I am a graduate student at the LTS program of the Linguistics Department of the UO, and plan to receive my third Masters’ degree in language teaching this Summer.
This year was quite intense for me. Juggling being a graduate student in the intense LTS program, working at CASLS, and having a small baby (who was born three weeks after I started the LTS program) was quite a challenge. I did not manage to have a lot of free time for hobbies or interests and had to plan smartly to balance all aspects of my life. But every spare minute I have I try to spend with family: my baby and my husband. We really enjoy hiking together, going to the coast in Florence, and just being together at home.
Could you tell us more about your GE position at UO?
This year I was a graduate employee (GE) at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) at UO. I worked on the Russian version of CASLS’ Bridging Project, a year-long hybrid course centered on exploring student identities. This project encourages students with high levels of proficiency, especially heritage students and those who graduate from immersion programs, to continue language study at the college level, which has become increasingly more challenging. CASLS is a great environment where people support and value each other. It was a big honor for me to work in such a highly-valued and highly-recognized National Foreign Language Resource Centers as CASLS. I truly believe that work which is done at CASLS will improve teaching and learning of world languages.
Could you tell us a little bit about the ideas that you have for your Master’s project?
My master’s project is called “Marching to Different Drummers: Differentiated Instruction for Teaching Mixed Classes of Heritage and Non-Heritage Learners of Russian with Motivation in Mind.” The motivation for this project is to offer language teachers access to the concepts of differentiated instruction, and strategies for applying it to their specific teaching context – mixed/homogeneous classes of heritage and non-heritage learners of Russian of novice to intermediate levels of proficiency.
What is the most valuable thing that you’ve learned during your time at the UO?
Probably, that we, LTS students, are all in a perfect place to gain very valuable knowledge on teaching which we can later apply in our lives. Professors in the LTS program possess extremely high levels of expertise in language teaching and offer us great support. Being a part of a single cohort of LTS students who are taking the same classes and doing the same projects together is really fun.
From Left to Right: Duong Hong Anh, Kainat Shaikh, Irene Njenga, Suparada Eak-in
This end-of-term Student Spotlight is a special “goodbye” to our dear friends, colleagues, and classmates from the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. The Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon has hosted these four lovely language teachers throughout the 2016-2017 school year, and the LTS cohort has had the wonderful opportunity to study along side them in the various Language Teaching courses they participated in. The YLC has been proud to welcome the FLTA’s without whom 4 of the 8 Self Study Program languages would not be available to the UO students and community. Now that Spring term is over, each scholar will soon be heading back to her home country, and the LTS program would like to recognize and remember the wonderful experiences we got to share with them!
Tell us about yourselves! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done? Any hobbies?
I am Anh Duong. I come from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. I am an English instructor at the University of Languages and International Studies back in my home country. I was granted the Fulbright scholarship last year and came to UO to study and work as an FLTA. About my personal life; I love music, movies, traveling, reading, and taking pictures. Since I came here, I have taken up cubing, basketball, and playing the guitar as my new hobbies.
I am from Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan. I work at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), so currently I am on leave as I am availing the Fulbright Fellowship. I teach graduates and undergraduates majoring in English Literature and Linguistics. I like reading books, and writing critical reviews. I enjoy traveling, especially to the places which have had a rich history.
My name is Irene Njenga, and I am from the central region of Kenya. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and a Master’s in Education, both from the University of Nairobi. Before coming to UO, I had worked in two places. My first job was at Dadaab Refugee Camp (Kenya) as the officer in-charge of the Accelerated Learning Program, and my second job was as an English teacher at Mukurwe High School (Kenya). I enjoy traveling and socializing with people from different cultures because it opens my mind to new ways of thinking and stimulates my creative problem-solving skills. I also enjoy swimming, cooking, reading novels, listening to music and watching movies.
My name is Suparada Eak-in. I am from Thailand. Back in Thailand, I worked as a lecturer of English in the Department of English and as a Deputy Director of the International Office at Mahanakorn University of Technology. My specialization is Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English for Specific Purposes. I taught EAP and ESP to non-English majors including Engineering, IT and Business students. In my free time, I like learning new languages, doing art and working out. Now, I am learning four languages: Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese by myself. I also draw and take pictures. My favorite exercises are jogging, Thai boxing and yoga.
Tell us about teaching at the UO as an FLTA! What is that like?
One of my key missions in the US is to teach Vietnamese to both students at UO and community members at the YLC. I appreciate the chance to teach my native language and share Vietnamese culture with American people as well as heritage students. Thanks to the Self Study Program at YLC, with small-size classes but extensive interaction with students, I have precious opportunities to listen to many individual stories, enabling better understanding of American culture as well as my own culture.
The YLC is the place to grow professionally, interdependently and culturally. I never taught Hindi/Urdu before coming to US, though it is the national language of Pakistan. I, being a native speaker, learned a lot about my culture, language and country by staying oceans away and that’s not only remarkable but a kind of liberating feeling.
Although I have been teaching for one year before becoming part of YLC, participating in the program has provided me an insight to see language teaching not as a way to show how languages are different from one another, but as a platform to let me explore how languages all around the world are spoken in their natural, cultural and raw forms. So, in order to completely imbibe in this language teaching experience, I myself decided to learn a new language. I attended classes of Turkish. New language gives a new lens to view the world. As such it may seem that speaking different languages actually makes us different from one another but actually learning a new language makes one feel connected to the wider community which is not one’s own. In one place, where creating borders may divide us, but learning new languages can unite us, this is my takeaway from YLC.
Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn! Although a biased view, it is true that Swahili is not a tonal language, has a fixed stress pattern, and words are spelled exactly how they are pronounced i.e. no silent letters! Teaching Swahili at the UO has been very rewarding. It has also been a great opportunity to interact with new cultures and incorporate Swahili culture into language teaching. I believe that my students enjoyed the lessons and gained competence in using the language. This has also helped me refine my teaching skills and familiarity with using the communicative approach in teaching grammar. I never discussed grammar in a tabular form and very rarely used grammar technical terminology.
Teaching Thai at YLC is different from teaching English at my university in Thailand. Firstly, YLC classes are small with no more than fifteen students. This provides me the opportunity to get to know my students more so I can facilitate their language learning more properly. Moreover, YLC offers the Self Study Program which places emphasis on the students’ needs. The challenge is to compromise/balance students’ individual needs and prepare the lessons to serve their needs efficiently. Lecture-based and commercial textbooks seem not to correspond with YLC students’ learning styles and goals. Thus, I mainly implemented a theme-based method in my classes. I set the themes according to the students’ needs and designed interactive activities to engage students in learning. I found that the students enjoyed learning and improved their skills proficiently.
What classes did you take during your time at UO? Did you have any other projects that you worked on? What was the most valuable thing you’ve gained from your experience here?
Apart from teaching Vietnamese, I also attended some classes, two of which were Teaching English Culture and Literature, and Testing and Assessment in the LTS Program. The most significant thing I took from these classes is the inspiration from my professors and classmates. I especially enjoy the lively and thought-provoking discussions with different points of view and practical projects in teaching that will benefit my own teaching in the future.
I enrolled myself in three courses, one course per term. My grant with Fulbright ensures that I grow strong academically by taking the classes that can serve my long term goals. Therefore, I took classes in LTS all three terms; Teaching Culture & Literature in Language Classrooms, Teaching Pronunciation, & Teaching and Assessment. My time with LTS cohort is worth treasuring as I met intelligent and creative people from various parts of the world.
From my entire year at UO, the most valuable asset that I have gained is to challenge the limits, and to outrun them.
I took classes in Language Teaching and International Studies. I worked on various projects like incorporating literature into English language teaching, education and culture in Kenya, as well as creating direct types of assessment. The most valuable thing I have gained is that language teaching can be fun. I have learned how to use different scaffolding activities in teaching language, classroom management techniques, key assessment principles, and skills in creating and/or adopting assessment tools and procedures for the language classroom.
I took two classes in LTS and one class in Linguistics. The classes in both programs provided me knowledge that I can apply in my teaching career. My favorite class was Teaching Pronunciation, which I took last term. I like this class most because I did not only learn the contents but also had opportunities to practice. Besides, I like observing the techniques that Dr. Patricia Pashby used in class. I found those techniques useful and worked well with my students.
Apart from teaching and learning, I worked as a cultural ambassador in the ICSP at UO. I presented Thailand and Thai culture to school students and senior communities in Eugene. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk with local people outside of the university and have productive cultural exchanges.
Any plans for the future, or final thoughts you would like to share?
My gratitude goes to the Fulbright program for giving me a chance to come to the US, meet amazing people, and share my story.
When I go back to Pakistan, I will resume my teaching, but there will be entirely different teaching methodologies. I will be working on making classes more student-centered where students should take responsibility of their learning. I learned a lot about testing and assessment this last term, and it has completely changed my perception towards language teaching. I am really looking forward to using the new teaching and testing trends which can ensure learning for not just a fleeting moment but for a life-time.
Irene leaves us with her favorite quote:
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe that despite the obstacles we face when pursuing our dreams, we should always be focused and keep working to realize them.
All of these experiences make me eager to go back and share them with my colleagues and students back home. I also want to better develop teaching methodology and education in my home country.
Reeya Zhao presenting a poster of her project titled, “A Career-Exploration Course in Mandarin Chinese for Young Learners,” at the UO 2016-2017 Graduate Research Forum
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Reeya Zhao, and I’m from Beijing, China, where I spent most of my life before turning 18. The city of Beijing is a mix of ancient, modern, domestic and overseas sites and cultures. People come and go since they can find both opportunities and challenges there. At the age of 18, I decided to leave to attend the East China Normal University in Shanghai, and that’s where I found the Disney summer internship and the OIIP programs in 2014. I worked at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida for two months as a merchandise representative before OIIP. This was technically my first overseas job, and I had so much fun because we often stocked past midnight after the garden closed and I met many Disney characters backstage. OIIP is an international internship program at the University of Oregon. During that 5 months, I took two courses at the UO while working as an intern in the kindergarten department of Mt. Vernon elementary school, with two teachers and two teaching assistants. After that, I made my decision to be a language teacher and come back some day pursuing further education.
Has the LTS program brought you any extracurricular opportunities?
Now, it has been almost one year for me studying in the LTS program. As an international student, I feel it’s very intensive yet worthwhile. By following the suggestions of which courses to take from our coordinator Dr. Keli Yerian, I feel that each term is a little bit more intensive than the previous one. The Gaokao (China College Entrance Examination) was the first high pressure educational experience for me, and the LTS cohort and program are the first ones to push me to become more professional in various ways. In the Fall and Winter terms, I participated in the Edison Chinese Club Program. Two other Chinese cohort members (Yan and Adam) and I planned and taught Mandarin lessons together after school on every Friday, and were directed by Professors Keli Yerian and Lara Ravitch. This was challenging at the beginning because not only did we need to think of attractive activities and how to best sequence all of it, we also pre-planned for imagined classroom management problems, and sometimes dealt with unexpected situations. For example, with planned small group activities, some kids might feel like working alone on some days, and we would come up with an “emergency plan” to let him/her be out of the group for a while. However, we always reminded ourselves to encourage them to come back eventually, because cooperation is one of the essential skills we want the learners to develop further in our Chinese club.
Tell us a little bit about your Master’s project! What is the context of your project?
My Master’s project is a course design for young learners of ages 10-14 studying at international schools in China. I believe that students within this age range are developing their awareness of future careers, and they need the language as a bridge between them and the outside world in this foreign country. Due to these reasons, I’m thinking of a career-exploration course taught in Mandarin Chinese to formally develop their multi-language and multi–culture abilities.
What are the most valuable aspects of the LTS program as you’ve experienced it so far?
I also value the circumstances of discussing, sharing, and working together with all the cohort members in LTS. I also love the various connections provided by all my instructors and the courses they lead. For example, in the Talking with Ducks course led by Professor Laura Holland, we had three classes each week. On Tuesdays, all the TWD teachers carefully planned and discussed the chosen activities together. On Thursdays, we actually taught in an English conversation college course for international students. Then, on Fridays, all the LTS cohorts got into the class to debrief and reflect how we did on those Thursdays. Last but not least, I also like the LT 536 course design and the LT 549 testing and assessment classes where I was pushed to design a course and assessments. In doing so, I was given the motivation to research and look into the use of authentic materials.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What previous work have you done? Any hobbies?
I hail from Portland, Oregon but enjoyed a well-spent six years in Boulder, Colorado during which I completed an M.A. in Comparative Literature. I have worked as a Spanish-English bilingual legal assistant for an immigration attorney, coffee slinger, mentor to at-risk Bolivian youth, aerobics instructor at a home for the elderly in Cuba, writing tutor, and freelance editor.
My hobbies include playing Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Eugene’s local Trek Theatre, rock climbing, laughing wildly, and going to fellow LTS-er Dan White’s UO Rubik’s Cube club.
Tell us about your work with NILI and learning Ichishkíin!
Far more than a hobby has been my involvement with the Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) at the University of Oregon and learning the PCNW language Ichishkíin. It has been and is a privilege to both collaborate there and learn the language. While 25 languages were once spoken in Oregon and 25 in Washington, only one indigenous language class is available at UO. However, NILI supports many Native community members in their efforts towards self-determination and language revitalization. Collaborating there, through internships (from archiving Klamath-Modoc materials to creating mini-lessons for our Ichishkíin classroom), being an Ichishkíin student, and volunteering at the annual two-week Summer Institute has meant supporting those efforts.
Tell us a little bit about your Master’s project!
During the Summer Institute, teacher training happens for Native community members, as well as curriculum and materials development and other educational related endeavors in classrooms and events. I have participated in Lushootseed classrooms and mapping workshops. The latter led by LTS instructor and NILI Associate Director of Educational Technology Robert Elliott; my own final MA project has morphed into a relatedly inspired project with him as my advisor. I will be using ideas ranging from paper map creation to cyber-cartography to adapt existing Ichishkíin materials into new ones. This both fulfills the mission of creating new materials for language use in the spirit of the Ichishkíin classes I have taken, as well as repurposing existing materials that contain indispensable language knowledge provided by first speakers. These materials will be either teacher created, designed to be student created, or teacher created yet student manipulated.
What is the most valuable thing about the LTS program for you up until this point?
These NILI & Ichishkíin based experiences have blended richly, poignantly, and distinctively with my other work during the LTS program (including an internship at the American English Institute), as many of the pedagogical circumstances are unique and require accordingly unique approaches and considerations. This is where place-related learning and everyday-relevant language learning became fulcrum to my internal gravitation towards effective, hands-on, collaborative, experiential, and multidisciplinary educational frameworks and experiences.
For me, the most valuable part of LTS has been precisely this co-habitation of the typical program route and my experiences with NILI. I am deeply grateful for both.
I’m originally from Louisiana, but I’ve lived about half of my life in Oregon. I’m definitely a fan of the cold and rain over the heat! I received my bachelor’s from Western Oregon University where I double majored in English Linguistics with TEFL certification, and Spanish Linguistics. In my spare time, I love spending time with my 5-year-old daughter, watching anime, singing, and writing.
Tell us about the work you do in the LTS program and at the University of Oregon in general. What kind of internships have you done?
I began the LTS program in Summer 2015 and although I had planned to graduate in one year and begin teaching immediately, I decided to take two years to complete the program instead so that I could take advantage of the many opportunities the LTS program has to offer.
During my time in LTS, I have done internships at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies), AEI (American English Institute), LCC (Lane Community College), and an internship abroad at TIU (Tokyo International University). I’ve also worked at AEI as a Conversation Partner/Help Desk Tutor and Activities Lead, CAPS (Center for Asian and Pacific Studies) as an English Tutor for the Shanghai Xian Dai architect exchange program, Mills International Center as the English Conversation Circle Lead, and CASLS as a Spanish Assessment Rater. There are so many opportunities to gain experience in both campus jobs and internships that really help to grow your CV!
I’ve also taken advantage of the many professional development opportunities present for LTS students. I presented my project research at the 2016 UO Grad Forum, which gave me the chance to present my work in a professional setting in front of other graduate students and faculty from departments across the university. I hope to present again this year as well because it was such a great experience. I also got the chance to present my research in an AEI Professional Development Friday poster session for AEI faculty. Outside of the university, I will be presenting at two big conferences. In March, I will present at the 2017 International TESOL Convention in the Electronic Village in Seattle, WA, and in June, I will present at the 2017 IALLT (International Association for Language Learning Technology) in Moorhead, MN.
Since you’re on the two-year plan, you’ve had a head start on your MA project. Would you tell us a bit about that?
When I first entered the LTS program, I had no idea what I wanted to do for my MA project. I’ve always been interested in creative writing, and I write fiction as a hobby, but I didn’t think that it would be something I could focus on. I thought that I should focus on something more typical like grammar or pronunciation; however, I was wrong! That’s one of the great things about LTS. You can really tailor your MA project to focus on what you’re passionate about, so long as there’s a need and a relevant connection to language teaching. For me, creative writing is a way to express yourself, create new worlds and characters that you wish existed, or to escape from reality every once in a while. So, I decided to focus on designing a creative writing English course. However, after doing a few internships at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) where much of the focus is on the intersection between gaming and language learning, I was inspired to design a creative writing course where students create a playable narrative-based game using ARIS, an open-source platform for creating mobile games and interactive stories. The focus of my project is on multi-literacies development using ARIS in a creative writing classroom. I’m really excited to hopefully teach this course in the future.
Tell us about yourself. What do you study? What kind of work have you done? Any hobbies?
Ni hao! Hello, I am Lin Zhu, a graduate student at University of Oregon. Right now, I am in two programs: I am a PhD student in East Asian Linguistics program in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and also an MA student in LTS program in the Department of Linguistics. My research interests include Chinese syntax, semantics, and SLA (primarily concerning Chinese teaching and learning). Here at the U of O I have been a teaching assistant for 2nd-year Chinese classes and now I am a TA for 1st-year Chinese. I am a Chinese guy working towards being a Chinese teacher. My ultimate goal is to teach Chinese in a university setting. I’m a fan of sports; basketball, badminton, table tennis, etc. I especially enjoy jogging and walking on the track.
Tell us about completing two concurrent degrees with the LTS and EALL programs. How does the work you do in LTS relate to EALL?
Well, you can imagine doing two programs at the same time is sometimes tiresome. Things keep coming up in my to-do list and the homework is always due very soon and seems to go on and on. I am a person who is early to bed and early to rise. But sometimes things keep me so busy that I become someone who is late to bed and still early to rise.
That being said, doing two programs is awesome in that you can have two cohorts to interact with. For example, this year, I had a Thanksgiving party with my classmates in the LTS program and had a Chinese New Year party with the EALL cohort! 🙂
I can easily find a balance between what I do in the EALL and LTS programs. The EALL program is theoretical. I get solid theoretical instruction from this and I get deeper understanding of the Chinese language. Also, the EALL program provides me with theoretical frameworks and methodological toolkit to conduct academic research. On the other hand, the LTS opens another door for me. It shows me the applied side of linguistics study. It gives me the theoretical underpinnings of language teaching and learning which is applied to a variety of real-life language teaching experiences. Also, as a TA in EALL, the time in LTS makes me a better teacher.
Heidi Shi (Shi Hui 石慧) is currently a second-year Ph.D. student majoring in Chinese linguistics in the EALL (East Asian Languages and Literatures) Department of UO. Besides the doctoral degree, she is also currently working on an M.A. degree in LTS (Language Teaching Specialization) in the Linguistics Department, wishing to train herself into a qualified language teacher at the college level. Heidi’s research interests include Language and Gender, Neologism, Chinese Pedagogy and so forth. She has enthusiasm and experience in teaching Mandarin Chinese at both Novice and Advanced levels.
Originally from Shanghai, China, Heidi spent 2 years living in Japan as well as 6 years studying and working in South Korea before she moved to the United States in 2015. Besides getting a Bachelor’s in Economics and a Master’s in International Studies and East Asian Studies, she has spent most of her spare time during her 20’s traveling in Europe, Asia and America. Her identity as a global citizen is her intrinsic motivation that drives her to make efforts in the field of language teaching and cross-cultural communication. She believes that Language is not merely putting sounds, symbols, and gestures in order to communicate with another community. From a cognitive perspective, language is how we present and express ourselves as individuals, communities, and nations. Heidi also believes that culture refers to a dynamic social system in which conventionalized patterns of behavior, beliefs, and values are integrated. Therefore, her teaching philosophy is: language acquisition should always be closely connected with acculturation because culture provides the environment in which a language is developed, used and interpreted. She is also firmly convinced that teaching and learning languages can promote cultural exchange and cross-cultural understanding, which in the long run, may facilitate international collaboration or even the realization of world peace.
Heidi’s Work as a GE (Graduate Employee)
Since Fall 2015, Heidi has been working as a GE at UO. Her GE work contains 4 types of assignments.
First, she has been teaching first-year Chinese at UO for 4 terms, which includes CHN 101 to 103 as well as the newly established accelerated class CHN 105. She teaches the Wednesday and Friday drill sessions for the various Chinese classes. Based on the principle of building a communicative language classroom, her lesson plans usually contain a lot of activities through which the students can have more opportunities for producing the target language, negotiating meanings and receiving authentic inputs.
Second, she also works as a tutor and disciplinary mentor for the Chinese Flagship Program undergraduate students. She has tutored over 10 Flagship students either in their Chinese-related major coursework or OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) preparation. She likes adopting the “4-3-2” method in 1-on-1 tutoring to increase each student’s fluency. Besides that, she also cautiously provides feedbacks and corrections, aiming to improve learner accuracy.
She also works for the Chinese Flagship Program as a graduate coordinator. Cooperating with the student leader team “Banzhang,” her job is to hold weekly meetings with the Flagship students. Using only Chinese, Heidi communicates with the Banzhang team and helps them arranging termly or yearly Flagship events.
Finally, in Fall 2016, Heidi was the GE of EALL 209 (East Asian Languages and Societies). It was an undergraduate level lecture taught in English which mainly introduced Chinese, Japanese and Korean societies and their related cultural backgrounds. Heidi was the grader of EALL 209, and she also taught 2 lectures in this course the contents of which were about Chinese politeness and metaphors.
Why did you decide to join the LTS program? Is there anything you look forward to doing in the program?
The reason why I applied for LTS lies in the strong theoretical and practical professional foundation that this program can provide to its students. On the one hand, I wish to systematically study the principles and theories of language acquisition and pedagogy. I am interested in reading the most cutting-edge research articles in language teaching as well as discovering any research gaps that may occur or have appeared in teaching Chinese to L1 English speakers. On the other hand, LTS is also a valuable resource that facilitates my language teaching as a GE. I have been adopting a lot of methods and approaches I have learned in the previous LTS classes in my classes where I teach Chinese. I also wish to obtain a profound understanding of the domains of teaching method, lesson planning, curriculum development, etc.
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from? Where have you worked? Any hobbies?
My name is Dan White, and I was born and raised in Portland, OR, USA. I definitely fall under the “nontraditional student” category. Out of high school, I worked random customer service jobs, until, one day I realized I was not living up to my potential. I decided, on a whim, to join the military. I joined the US Army as an ammunition specialist and shipped off to basic training in 2006. The Army had me all over the US as well as spending a year in Korea and nine months in Iraq. I finished my contract with the Army and started school at the University of Oregon in 2010. I received my BA in Linguistics in 2013.
I had applied for the LTS program for the fall of 2013, but I decided to pursue some work experience by heading off to Korea to teach English. This was my second stint in Korea, but my first was spent with the U.S. Army, so I did not really get a chance to fully enjoy my time. The second time, I focused on learning the language and culture and truly experiencing every part of Korea. I made lifelong friends, and started a new hobby that is now a major part of my life: solving Rubik’s Cubes competitively. I started learning as a way to pass time, but I soon realized that I had an aptitude and passion for these puzzles. I incorporated them into my English classroom, and I used my after-school classes (where the curriculum was entirely up to me) to teach Rubik’s Cubes to my students. I used English to teach them how to solve the puzzle. This has become a vital part of my teaching methodology. I truly believe the best way to learn a language is not to focus on the language itself, but to focus on completing a task that is of particular interest to you. Then you are not learning the language simply to learn it, you are learning an entirely new skill and the language is simply the medium you are using to acquire that skill.
After three years in Korea, I recently came back to the United States in September of 2016, and I started in the LTS program in the Fall of 2016. I am still adapting to living in the United States again, and I am very excited to continue pursuing my education. I love teaching, and I want to do everything I can to become the best language teacher that I can.
You had an internship opportunity to work with students from Saint Gabriel’s College in Bangkok, Thailand. What was that like?
I had a wonderful opportunity to work with a group of high school students from Thailand. I could immediately tell that they were very special. I taught them over the course of two weeks. Rather than focusing on language courses, I taught them cultural courses. I had a lesson on comedy and a lesson on expectations vs. reality. Their trip culminated in a presentation to LTS students in Dr. Trish Pashby’s “Teaching Culture and Literature” class. Prior to the actual presentation, we had a practice presentation. The students did well, but I gave them a lot of feedback. Their English was fine, but they needed to work on their presentation skills. They primarily lacked in smooth transitions from speaker to speaker and visually-appealing slides. The difference between their practice presentations and the presentations given in class was night and day. I was so proud to see the way they took my advice to heart and poured everything they had into their presentations. It was one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had as a teacher.
Talk to us about working with the Fulbright Scholars.
Mixed in among our LTS students in various classes are some amazing minds from across the world. We are lucky enough to share our Literature and Culture class with four Fulbright Scholars. Fulbright Scholars work on special scholarships to study in the United States while also teaching their native language and culture. The four we have are from Kenya, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Thailand.
I had the opportunity to select some students for a lesson demonstration in my Multiliteracies course. I decided to invite all four of them, although I only needed to demonstrate my lesson for two students. All four showed up, and I taught them a lesson on American comedy. We discussed different comedy styles, I showed them various examples of American comedy. We also analyzed a specific comedy sketch, looking at various elements (camera angles, music changes, language choices) and discussed how they added to the comedic element of the video. Then they attempted to create their own comedic sketch.
The lesson was very challenging, but the Fulbright scholars were more than up for the task. I was very impressed with how patient and receptive they were to my lesson. I think teachers make very good students as they know the challenges that a fellow teacher faces, and I was definitely lucky to have them in my class. I also felt that they benefited a lot from this lesson as comedy is an extremely difficult topic to understand for second-language learners as there are both linguistic and cultural hurdles. Overall it was a great experience with them.
You’re also an intern with CASLS, right? What can you tell us about that?
I am currently working as an intern with the Games2Teach project of the CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) program. My job is to play commercial video games and assess how they can be used by language teachers to facilitate language learning. I look at both language and cultural aspects of these games that could benefit students. I assess the age appropriateness, language difficulty, and overall genre of the games. This experience has been very rewarding, as my master’s project will be focused on developing a language teaching game template that teachers can adapt to their lessons. I have found many elements from the games that I have tested that I would love to incorporate into my own game.
Last but not least, tell us about the Cubing Club!
The UO Cubing Club did not exist, so I decided to go through the steps to start it. Students need hobbies to pass the time, and cubing is a great one. I love teaching people how to solve the cube. I get to see the excitement on their faces when they are finally able to make the last turn that solves the cube. It is a lot like the joy I get in seeing my language-learning students progress. We also help people who can already solve to transition into competitive solving. They can learn larger cubes (4×4, 5×5, etc), or they can add new tricks to the normal 3×3 (blindfolded solving, one-handed solving, etc). Meeting with the club is a great stress reliever for me. I hope the club continues to grow throughout my time here at UO. If you are interested in joining, look up “UO Cubing Club” on OrgSync!
My name is George Minchillo and I am from Dallas, Texas. I first became interested in language study during my high school years when I began learning Latin. I college, I took the plunge and decided to make language my career focus, earning a Bachelor’s in French at the University of North Texas. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do with a French degree, I took a year to go abroad and teach English as part of the English Program in Korea. I loved the experience so much that I started researching TESOL programs which eventually led me to the LTS program at the University of Oregon! After graduation I’m hoping to return to Korea (or Japan, or China, or anywhere really!) to teach English at the university level. One hobby, embarrassing as it may be, is that I like to collect textbooks. At one point, I had over 200 but decided to let them go as they were too bulky to carry around the globe with me.
In today’s digitalized world where almost everything is run by a computer in some fashion, there are still those who have no prior experience using a desktop or smart device in their day-to-day life. The Digital Literacy Workshops are a way to help those students at LCC who may be new to using a computer or who would like improve their digital skill sets. The workshop topics can be flexible, but the participants usually want to learn the basics such as how to use a mouse, how to type, how to open and close programs, and most importantly how to do what they need to for school (online homework, registration, connecting to the school’s Wi-Fi). Most of the students who participate in the workshops are ESL students so it is a multi-tasking of teaching computer skills and language skills. It’s a great, stress-free environment to get your feet wet if you have no prior teaching experience or, even if you do, to try something new and challenging.
You’re a part of Talking with Ducks. Can you tell us more about that?
Talking with Ducks is part of the Language Teaching 537 course ‘Teaching Practice.’ The class is designed to allow novice teachers a chance to (as the title implies) practice their teaching skills while learning about the principles of language teaching in their other classes. Every week the grad student leaders or LT Ducks meet and plan a lesson to implement in the Talking with Ducks class that is an elective for current international students at the American English Institute (or AEI). Topics include things like Travel, Holidays, Etiquette and Customs, and many other cultural items of interest to the AEI students. The discussion-based class is not only fun but gives us a great opportunity to interact with the students, which is important to me as they are the audience I will be working with in my future career goals.
I have 2 different positions with the AEI: Conversation Partner and Activities Lead. As a Conversation Partner, my duties include meeting with students individually two times per week and giving them an opportunity to practice conversation without classwork or needing to share time with classmates. Conversation Partners are also able to participate in Oral Skills classes, where the teachers give specific tasks to help students with, and also at Help Desk, which is a drop-in spot for AEI students to get help on their homework. In addition to these duties as Conversation Partner, I also act as an Activities Lead, which means I drive the students in a van to fun activities or volunteer opportunities and then act as a conversation partner for them during the trip. Examples of activity trips include Portland downtown, Crater Lake, and Lincoln City by the coast. If there are any future LTSers who don’t have a GTF and want a little extra teaching experience outside of class, I highly recommend working with the AEI. It starts off small as a Conversation Partner, but the opportunity to grow and become an integral part of the AEI is a great chance to maximize the time you spend with the students!
What are you most excited to learn or do during your time in the LTS program?
I’m most excited to start working on my own Master’s project. Although at this point in time I’m still a little unsure of which direction I want to take my research, I feel like I have a strong team of professors who are willing to help push me in the right direction. If you’re looking for a program where you have the freedom to develop your own materials and test them out in the classroom, then LTS is definitely for you!
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What did you do before joining the LTS program? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Yan Deng and I come from Lanzhou, which is the capital city of northwest China’s Gansu province. The city is not very big, but there are still 2 million people who live there. My favorite food is Lanzhou beef noodles, which is a very famous food in China. Before I came to the U.S.A, I already got my bachelor’s degree at a Chinese university. My major was Chinese Education. I wanted to know about different cultures and to learn different languages, so I decided to study abroad. In 2011, I came to the University of Oregon, and my major was Educational Foundations. In class, I learned a lot about American teaching methods. Outside of class, I tried to learn more about American culture, such as how American students celebrate holidays, how they work on campus, and how they chat with their friends at cafes.
I have been in Eugene for 5 years. Eugene is a small, quiet and beautiful city, and I love living here. While I was an undergraduate student at UO, I volunteered at an American elementary school for two years. I noticed there were a lot of differences between American elementary schools and Chinese elementary schools. I have been a Chinese tutor for one-and-a-half years at UO, and I liked the job so I am still doing it now. I love to encourage American students to know more about China and to learn Chinese. I think we could all learn from each other.
Hobbies? I like swimming and reading. My favorite books are the Harry Potter series. Sometimes I like to watch American TV shows, such as CSI and Criminal Minds. To be honest, I get scared by some of the plots.
Tell us about Talking with Ducks. What is that experience like for you?
For me, I like the TWD class because I can learn a lot about teaching. The most important part is how the team members help each other. For example, I was a leader in week 2. I had to make sure my pronunciation was correct, and the rules of my game had to be clear. Since I am an international student, I have to worry about these things. To be honest, I wrote down every sentence of my lesson plan, and I read them to my team members, Devon and George. They helped me to edit my lesson plan. I was so glad they were so patient with me. No one loafs around on the job!
In Thursday’s class, when students came in , we didn’t feel nervous because we were ready. But there were still some situations that I hadn’t thought of before. Thus, we needed to help each other. For example, I didn’t realize students would still sit a big circle after I separated them into different groups. I didn’t know how to solve the problem, but George quickly jumped in and gave more explanation to solve the problem. When students were playing the game, I forgot to explain the game time limit, but Devon was on it. How about the other LTS Ducks? Yes, they all did very well. Sue and Maude were very creative in their groups, letting their group members use the envelopes (which were just materials from my activity) in the game. Joliene, Reeya and Juli built a great and comfortable environment for their group members to practice English. Laura, the professor of the TWD class, made sure everything was going very well. Because of this teamwork, I love the class and I enjoy every minute of it!
Tell us about the Chinese Club!
The Chinese Club is held at the Edison Elementary School, and is one of the after school clubs. In our club, we have 11 students who come from different grades. The goal of the club is to encourage students to learn about Chinese culture as well as some simple Chinese characters. We tried to build a real language environment to help students learn Chinese. Last week, our topic was “daily life in Beijing.” We created some class activities to help students know the real Beijing, such as visiting the Summer Palace and the Forbidden City, and eating Beijing duck.
What are you most excited to learn or do in the LTS program?
I am so excited to learn a lot of different teaching methods in LTS program. We discuss issues in class, and we solve problems together. When I am studying in every class, I know I am coming closer step-by-step to my dream. Even though I have a very full schedule, I know my friends and I are always a team. I will be brave and I will keep swimming, just like Dory! Ha ha~