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.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What is your previous experience before coming to UO? Any hobbies? Etc.
I was born and raised in Casstown, Ohio. It is a small farming town that topped out at 267 people at the last Census. I guess an updated stat would be 266. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in French and Linguistics at Ohio’s first university, Ohio University (Go Bobcats!). My time in Athens is where my interest in language learning and teaching was cultivated. To date, I have more experience being a language learner than a language teacher. In 2012, I studied abroad in Avignon, France. After the term finished, I moved to Saint-Marcel-les-Sauzet and was a WWOOFer at a bed and breakfast. (WWOOF is an acronym for the organization, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farmers, and a WWOOFer is someone who volunteers their time at an organic farm or the like in exchange for room and board). I was learning French in the wild. It was exhilarating. So much so that I returned in 2014 for a second stay. Although I didn’t know it at the time, WWOOFing really helped inform my philosophy on language teaching & learning.
I know that you are a GE at the Jaqua Center. Could you tell us what that is like?
Yes, I’d love to! I’m the Writing Learning Assistant Graduate Employee for the Services for Student Athletes department. I tutor student athletes taking writing courses or courses with a heavy writing component. One of the perks about this position is that I get to bring what we learn in the LTS program with me to work. In addition to working with athletes in writing courses, I also tutor many of our international student athletes helping them with schoolwork and developing their English language skills. Working with the SSA staff and student athletes has been a really fun and rewarding part of graduate school. I love learning about each student’s story and, more importantly, watching it be written in real time. Different from teaching, I often work with students for several terms, which allows time to observe academic and athletic growth.
What is the most valuable aspect of the LTS program as you’ve experienced it thus far?
One aspect has been the opportunity to work collaboratively with fellow classmates. I’m a hands-on learner, so the opportunity to get our hands dirty with material, concepts, and teaching techniques has been very helpful.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of experiences have you had at UO? Any hobbies?
I am from Tokyo, Japan. I have lived in Eugene, Oregon for about 7 years. I graduated from Tokyo Woman’s Christian University and got an English teacher’s license in Japan, but I did not want to be an English teacher who doesn’t speak English fluently. This made me come to the States seven years ago. I graduated from the University of Oregon in 2016 with a Linguistics major and a Dance minor, and I worked at the Japanese Immersion Elementary School in Eugene as a Bilingual Educational Assistant in my last academic year. I helped students in both English and Japanese classes. I also did private tutoring with some students from 1st to 5th grades. That tutoring experience was completely different than the assistant position at the elementary school. I learned about time-management and project-based teaching, and I could create some materials and activities based on each student’s motivation for learning Japanese.
I like dancing. When I was an undergraduate student, I was in some faculty/student concerts put on by the Dance Department. I used to practice ballet a lot, but now I like modern dance more because I met some great modern dance teachers here at UO. I love singing and listening to music. When I feel stressed during midterms or finals week, I sing aloud and that makes me feel better.
You’re the leader for the Japanese Language Circle. Can you share with us what that’s like?
Even though my focus is “teaching English,” I am still interested in and working on teaching Japanese also because of my previous experience in the field. From Fall term 2016, I have been a leader of the Japanese Language Circle at the Mills International Center. Both Japanese learners and native Japanese speaking students come to this circle and every week we have different people. It is not a class or anything, but certain people come every week and we are building a new community. We mostly have conversations. As a leader, I pick some random topics for each week, such as current events, Japanese or American culture differences and similarities, and new terms or trends both in Japan and in the States. I do not know how other languages run the circles, but I decided to make slides and set some target topics because our circle is sometimes quite big. If you are interested in the Japanese Language Circle, please go check this website!
What is the topic of your Master’s project? Can you tell us about it?
My Master’s Project is titled “The Effective Usages of L1 with a Plurilingual Approach in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in Junior High English Curriculum in Japan”. By 2020, Japan will implement a major reform of the English education curriculum in junior and senior high schools in which English classes will be taught as “English only” in response to globalization. It is the government’s decision but teachers are seeking more effective ways to transition to only English use in the classroom. I am exploring the benefits of using the first language, in this case Japanese, in English as a Foreign Language classrooms, especially with novice learners. My Master’s Project is a research-based teaching portfolio that illustrates options for how teachers and students can use Japanese effectively to transition to an English-only CLIL classroom. I would propose some solutions for this new approach of English Education in Japan.
What is the most valuable thing that you have learned/done in the LTS program?
Since I got the Second Language Acquisition Teaching (SLAT) certificate when I was in undergrad, I had a flexible schedule in Fall and Winter terms, so I was able to take some classes from the EALL (East Asian Language and Literature) department. I have learned Japanese pedagogical phonetics, and Japanese and Korean syntax. They were phenomenal experiences for me because even though I had some Japanese linguistics courses in Japan, it was completely different than the ones offered in the States. My target learners share the first language, in this case Japanese, so it was good to see Japanese linguistics from different angles.
Another thing that I really like about this LTS program is that we have a cohort system. That makes me feel like I am a part of the LTS program. Every student has completely different and unique learning and teaching experiences. All the feedback and comments that I get in class (sometimes outside of class also!) are very precious and always making my rigid way of thinking more flexible. In our community, we’ve been building up our relationships since last Fall term (some are from last Summer term), so I feel comfortable to give and receive positive suggestions and feedback.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? Where have you studied? Any hobbies?
I was originally born in S. Lake Tahoe, California but have spent most of my life in Las Vegas, NV. To stay close to home, I decided to attend the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. I got my B.A. in Romance Languages (French and Spanish). During my undergraduate degree, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Pau, France and Heredia, Costa Rica. Both of these experiences studying abroad have helped to shape who I am now and fuel my love of language learning/teaching. It also helps that I love to travel (hard to find a language teacher that doesn’t), and I sincerely enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds. One more fun fact about myself is that I love watching/playing soccer. Go FCB!
You’re a GE for the Romance Languages department. What is that like?
Yes, for the past two terms I have taught first-year intensive Spanish. This course is intensive in that the students have already had at least two years of Spanish learning experience, so the class moves through the units quicker than if it were a class of true beginners. This upcoming term I am going to be teaching Spanish 203, so it will be interesting to see how much the learners are expected to know from the end of first year until this point. I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.
Teaching Spanish here at the UO has been insightful, but honestly quite exhausting at times. Balancing your personal needs and the needs of your students can get pretty tricky, but when you see how much your students are progressing, it makes the whole thing worthwhile. Teaching while doing LTS at the same time is not for the weak-hearted; however, I do think it serves as an invaluable experience in which you can directly apply what you are learning in LTS to a real class.
Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your Master’s project?
My master’s project is going to be a teaching portfolio for Spanish Heritage Language Learners (SHLLs). I am currently looking into creating activities that integrate service-learning, since heritage learners often report learning their heritage language for the purpose of connecting to their family members and their communities. As a SHLL myself, this project is especially important to me because I want to create a teaching portfolio that not only promotes language proficiency and community engagement, but that encourages heritage learners to value the knowledge they already have as rich and important. So far it has been extremely interesting and kind of fun to research these topics. I cannot wait to start the process of actually creating the activities!
Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?
Unfortunately, UNLV does not have a Linguistics department, and I was set on doing something related to linguistics for graduate school, so that meant I had to start looking for a place that suited me. Lucky for me, while searching through program after program, I ended up meeting my now fellow cohort companion, Becky Lawrence, on Facebook through mutual interests. After she explained that everything she was learning was directly applicable to real language teaching situations, I was convinced LTS was the place for me. I have not regretted my decision since. Many of my peers in other departments often tell me how they wish they would have done LTS rather than what they are doing. It feels good to know that I am in the right place.
One thing I am looking forward to doing is starting the process of collecting information from heritage learners and teachers for my master’s project. I want to know what they enjoy and do not enjoy about their SHL classes. I want to find ways to satisfy the needs of these learners, since we know their needs are different from that of L2 learners. It should hopefully be an enlightening and satisfying process.
Video Blog Update!
Valeria returns to update us on her GE experience, switching from teaching 1st-year Spanish to leading the 2nd-year course. She also shares with us how her project focus has evolved since joining the Master’s project class this Spring term!
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done before joining the LTS program?
Home is where I have loving family and close friends. I’m originally from the foothills of Colorado, but I’ve bounced between there, Germany, Austria, and South Korea before moving to Eugene with my wife, Jiyoon, last year for school.
Growing up the Rockies, I’ve always loved being outdoors among nature. I like to snowshoe, camp, backpack, fish, and climb mountains. I spent nearly half of my childhood sleeping in tents in nature. I also love reading, cooking, gardening, building things, drawing, and I enjoy taking pictures when the mood hits me. When I have time and money, I love traveling, learning about foreign cultures, and trying to learn foreign languages. Actually, the experiences I had learning foreign languages have directly affected my teaching, and knowing a foreign language even helped me get my first language teaching job.
I’ve had many jobs. My first job, when I was 14, was building hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains. I have also worked in a kitchen, as a mover, a landscaper, in maintenance, for a political party, in an insurance company, and for a TEFL certification program. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I got my start in teaching ESL in the Denver area through some local non-profits. Since then, I’ve taught both English and German, and I’ve worked in adult education with immigrants and refugees, in the South Korean public school system, in an intensive English program, and now as a GE for the American English Institute’s matriculated international undergraduate classes.
Each of those teaching contexts has brought with it a different perspective on how language is learned and how connections across cultures are made. I’ve always tried hard to make a connection and build a relationship with my students. Having learned foreign language, having been an exchange student, and having worked in a country where I was a minority have helped me relate to my students’ experiences. I’ve worked with a lot of students from many of different backgrounds, and I always aspire to be a positive influence in their lives. In turn, they’ve always impressed me with their perseverance, and my heart sings when I see them succeed using something that I helped them discover.
Tell us about being a GE with the AEIS program?. What does that entail?
It’s busy. Seriously though, I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience working as a GE for the AEI. They have a wonderful supportive and expert staff, and there are tons of opportunities for professional development offered through the AEI’s programs. I was even able to showcase a unit on teaching debate at an in-house poster session at the AEI which some of the staff have been using in their work. Teaching the AEIS classes is also a perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet at an American university level of ESL instruction. I taught AEIS 102 – Advanced Academic Oral Communication in the fall, and I’m currently teaching AEIS 112 – Written Discourse III (Research Paper). One benefit of being a GE at the AEI is that I can complement my classes with the research and coursework that I am doing in the LTS program. I am happy that I’m able to incorporate research-backed strategies and pedagogical approaches in my lessons to help our international undergraduates develop the linguistic skills that they need to thrive in the university context. I have also been able to utilize some of the CALL aspects that I’ve learned as an intermediary for supplemental instruction. The synergy created between both places is also really helping challenge me on a new level of instruction and to think beyond my previous language teaching experience, especially on the curricular level, and I am just happy to be a part of both programs.
I will say that working at the AEI as a GE does have its challenges. Being a sole instructor allows me the freedom to take control of the course curriculum so long as it aligns with the course goals, student learning outcomes, and assessment. However, with that, there is a lot that I need to dedicate towards planning and structuring of both the lessons and curriculum, as well as with providing students with useful feedback. Luckily, the methods and pedagogical approaches that I am learning as an LTS student can be directly applied to my courses, and I can develop my curriculum beyond a holistic level. I can see my growth as a language teaching professional, and seeing my students succeed makes the extra effort worth it.
It’s getting close to Master’s project time. Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your project?
My proposed MA project is inspired by my first AEIS 102 course that I taught in the Fall 2016 term. I was looking for authentic materials to use to help my students build listening strategies when I noticed that I kept coming back to public radio broadcasts not only to set the context but also to structure the lessons. When I used them in class, I received a lot of positive feedback from my students, and I was surprised how much of a diverse plethora of contexts and genres that were readily available. Because of this, I decided that I want to build a materials portfolio around using public radio in combination with other multimedia as a complement to a matriculated university oral skills curriculum to teach listening. I want to develop an array of activities that can be used to teach not only the language, but also the paralinguistic language that surrounds it. The project is still in its initial stages, but I’m looking forward to diving into it this coming spring.
Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?
I chose LTS for a number of reasons. First and foremost, when I started to look at graduate programs a few years back, I reached out to Dr. Keli Yerian while I was teaching in Korea. She helped to put into perspective the strengths that the LTS program had over other TESOL or theoretical linguistics programs. I liked that the degree focused on language teaching, and with that, I’ve been able to work on English, German, and a little bit of Korean in my coursework. Also, the multilingual approach meant that I would be able to work with a highly diverse and international cohort. This aspect allowed both my wife Jiyoon and I to apply and study together even though our language focus is different. I was also attracted to the fact that the program highlighted implementing technology into the language classroom and language assessment. I knew that these two aspects would be integral in my professional development. A final reason why I chose the LTS program is because of the other resources available on this large campus. I am currently taking an elective on grant proposal writing that I’m sure will help me to find funding for any future non-profit language programs that I decide to volunteer or work for.
In the terms to come, I am looking forward to learning about assessment and how to teach pronunciation. Looking at my teaching now, I know that I need work in both of these aspects. I am also excited for the opportunity to start working on my MA project. The nice thing about being a student here at UO, especially in the LTS, is that opportunities open up for students all the time.
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!