LTS

Language Teaching Studies Blog Site at the University of Oregon

May 8, 2019
by krobin14
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Alumni Spotlight- Lee and Zach

Zach Patrick-Riley and Lee Huddleston both earned their MA degrees in LTS in 2018, and are now spending some time as teacher-trainers at Yessenov University in Kazakhstan. Below is the story of their lives so far in this new area and new job!

Zach and Lee

What are you both up to in Kazakhstan?

[Lee and Zach]: We chose to answer this question together because almost all of our professional and personal days are spent together. We are both currently Teacher Trainers here at Yessenov University, in Aktau, Kazakhstan. However, the term teacher trainer only begins to describe the variety of hats we wear on a daily basis. The Yessenov Language Center is a pilot project that started fall of 2018, so we’ve been involved in every aspect of integrating English language learning into the university curriculum. Speaking of, one of our primary tasks has been to design curriculum for A2-B2 classes. We have quite a bit of flexibility in designing the curriculum, yet at the same time, we must be conscious of all relevant stakeholders needs (i.e. a very diverse student body, teachers, administrators, our department, and more). With the help of the World Languages Department and English Philology Department, we also have designed and teach a continuing professional development course (CPD) for the Top Managers of the University that ultimately prepares them with 21st century skills and to succeed in taking the IELTS.

One of the most fun aspects of our job is being able to continue teaching in the classroom! We lead interactive teacher training workshops twice a week for two departments in which we focus on English language teaching methodological approaches. Our topics in these workshops range from Flipped Learning to the use of the L1 in the language classroom. Additionally, we also have an English Speaking Club once a week in which we lead students in fun activities while practicing functional English. Just last week we lead a great club which had the students running around the school on a scavenger hunt and creating hashtags for a few of their pictures.

Zach guest teaching the CPD course

To build capacity at the university among the teachers of two departments, we conduct weekly observations of teachers in both university and CPD courses. During these observations we offer suggestions for continuing their growth as professionals, as well as alternative ways of conducting the lessons. The teachers are generally very open to feedback and appreciate the suggestions and advice that we offer.

Finally, we serve as cultural ambassadors every day at the university. Usually we promote in an informal sense through everyday interactions with students and staff at the university. While other times we fill this role in a more formal way by speaking with media outlets and visiting government officials such as the mayor, governor, embassy officials, ministers, and even the acting president of Kazakhstan.

How did you find this position at the university?

[Lee]: My journey to Kazakhstan began when I first met Yelena Feoktistova in my LTS courses. Yelena was a Fulbright Scholar at the American English Institute at the UO in 2017-18. She observed, participated in, and presented at a variety of our classes over the year-long program. She was impressed by the strong focus our program had on language teaching methods and approaches as well as how to apply those in a real context. When she first told us about teaching in Kazakhstan, and her purpose of bringing new teaching methods to her country and university, that I might one day end up in Kazakhstan was the furthest thing from my mind. But many conversations later, I learned that Yelena would be the head of a new English language center project in Aktau and she was looking for teacher trainers to help her jump-start the program. The idea of doing teacher training and curriculum design work straight out of graduate school to me seemed like too good of an idea to pass up, I wanted to really hit the ground running in terms of applying what I learned in the LTS program. I was certainly not wrong, everyday teaching here has been full of the rewards and challenges that make teaching such a dynamic field.

Lee, Yelena, and Zach walking by the Caspian Sea

[Zach]: I first met Yelena at a CASLS meeting halfway through the LTS program. As she was a visiting Fulbright scholar, she occasionally attended CASLS curriculum meetings to learn about the innovative projects CASLS does. To be honest, when Yelena said she was from Kazakhstan, I had to check my mental world map to know exactly where that was. Needless to say, the world traveler in me was intrigued from the get-go about a region I had never been to before. As the months went on, I got to know Yelena better and learned more about the Yessenov Language Center project. My excitement about a rich cultural and professional opportunity grew and grew. I also loved the flexibility around the contract start time. Because of it, after graduating last fall I was able to go to a family reunion in the USA and backpack around Nepal and India for a couple months before starting the job. Having that time to recover after the program helped a lot in feeling ready to work hard again.

 What is a special thing or place you have discovered there?

[Lee and Zach]: THE CASPIAN SEA!!! Our Pacific Northwest Roots absolutely love it, especially as a way to relax on the weekends. We also both love the proximity of nearby countries. While here, Lee has visited Turkey, Azerbaijan, and will soon visit Georgia. Zach has visited Georgia twice (yes, he loves it there!).

Sunset photo of the Caspian Sea

[Lee]: I’ll share two things I have discovered, one is more significant, and one is more of a simple pleasure. I’ll begin with the simple one.  During my first couple of months in Kazakhstan, I experienced a sudden coffee drought. Tea is far more popular in Kazakhstan than coffee, so coffee is just less accessible here, what coffee I did find here was always instant coffee, which can still be great, but it could not fully satisfy my Oregon coffee tastes. So, what I discovered was, a particular store that sold great coffee, and I also learned how to recognize coffee as it was sold/packaged here. To my embarrassment, I quickly realized that lots of real coffee had been sitting under my nose the whole time. This leads me to my second discovery, which is that you can get around and function with a surprisingly low amount of language. I have been amazed about how quickly I have been able to read most signs in Cyrillic now, and how much I can get done while speaking little Russian. I admit that this is probably due in large part to technology like maps/google translate, but it is still fascinating to realize how much top-down understanding helps when you speak very little of the language and don’t read the script. As someone who studies language this has been a fascinating experience in a linguistic and of course a personal and professional sense.

[Zach]: One of the most special things about Kazakhstan is its diverse population and spoken languages. We interact with people originally from Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Korea, and even more nationalities on any given day. Consequently, we hear a variety of languages being spoken in the hallways. As language lovers, this is very cool! It’s also special to learn additional languages ourselves. I have focused more on learning Russian as I plan on working digitally from Russia and Georgia this fall. But learning at least some phrases in Kazakh has been a sure way to bring a smile to anyone’s face, as the language is a source of national pride, particularly in the Mangystau region.

What has been most useful from LTS while teaching there?

Lee showing his enthusiasm for teaching during a speaking club

[Lee]: I mean, honestly everything that we learned in LTS has been so useful in this context. In this job we have really been practicing each part of language teaching developed in our courses from curriculum design, to creating assessments, to teaching in our own classroom, to training others in the use of a variety of teaching approaches. Resources that we created and/or encountered during our various classes, internships and graduate employee positions have also proven invaluable as we seek to give quality materials to our teachers. Though I have not directly implemented my masters project here in this context, I have used resources from that project, and approaches that I developed in the project to help create the curriculum and design workshops for the teachers.

[Zach]: I completely agree with Lee. The breadth of skills you learn while in the LTS program have all proven extremely useful. We have used knowledge gained from every class we took and our respective Graduate Positions (Lee, AEI, and me, CASLS). Lee and I often even chat about how cool it would be to take part in those priceless LTS discussions with the experiences we’ve had here.

Any advice for current LTS students?

[Lee]: I would advise current LTS students to always be thinking about making resources/projects that are highly adaptable or appropriate for a variety of contexts, these can be resources that you can easily implement in work outside of the program. Also, though I think I said something similar in a previous blog I think it bears repeating, really do as much as you can while you are in LTS, take advantage of all the development opportunities that you can, really give your all for every project and every assignment because all of that can be directly applied in your future experiences.

[Zach]: A year ago we were in your shoes really getting into the final Master’s project, so we know how tough and challenging it is. Stay strong and believe in yourselves. You are even more capable than you believe, and you should be very proud of how much you’ve already learned and accomplished. If you ever have more specific questions, please feel free to get in touch with us directly. #LTSforlife

Yessenov University

January 9, 2019
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight – Kelsey

Kelsey Hertal graduated from LTS in 2015. Her project was designed with the intention of heading to Latin America, which she did but not for her expected reasons as you will see below!  The project was titled, Integrating American English Pragmatic Instruction in Tourism Training Programs in Latin America: A Materials Portfolio.

Kelsey (middle) with one of her classes in Columbia

Hi Kelsey! What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS?

My story is about how to stay patient when at first you don’t succeed, and always remember that something good might be just around the corner!

When I graduated from LTS, it took about 4 months for me to find a job. I looked everywhere (and I mean EVERYWHERE) to find a job and no language school, international school, university, or community college was ready to hire me. I remember it was incredibly discouraging and I felt that all my hard work in LTS was useless!

In November of 2015, Keli emailed me about an immediate job opening at INTO Oregon State University. They urgently needed extra teachers because of their high enrollment numbers that term. I applied and immediately received a call asking for an interview. The following day I drove to Corvallis, interviewed, got hired on the spot, and was scheduled to start teaching the next morning. The only word I have to describe that morning was chaos, as they gave me my teaching material 15 minutes before the class started. However, with my adrenaline running off the charts and my heart beating a thousand times per minute, it was one of the most amazing teaching moments of my life. LTS prepared me 110% for jumping into a teaching environment with no plan and coming up with material on the spot.

My contract at Oregon State was supposed to last 6 weeks, but at the end of the term, the students wrote a letter of recommendation to the INTO OSU administration team begging for them to keep me on the teaching staff. To my surprise, OSU offered me a contract for the next term because I “impressed” them so much with my rapport with the students. I worked as an adjunct at OSU for a year and a half, and it was more exciting and fun than any teaching job I could have imagined.

At the end of my first year, I happened to meet a Colombian recruiter at an INTO OSU end-of-year work event. To make a long story short, we fell in love (yes, I know that took you off guard!), I quit my job at OSU, and I moved to Colombia in April of 2017. As soon as I arrived in Colombia, I had an interview at Marymount School Medellin and I was hired immediately as a High School English teacher.

I started the job in the middle of the school year, and once again, had very little preparation for what I would be teaching. I truly feel like LTS prepared me to hop right in to a teaching job that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for.

We got married this past July and we’re loving the newlywed life. I’m still working at the same school and I absolutely love my job as a High School English teacher. Although I never expected to teach high school, I wouldn’t change it for the world and I am so thankful for my students, the great teaching environment, and the classes I get to teach.

What a story! What have you enjoyed most (and least) about teaching so far?

My favorite thing about teaching is being with the students. I love seeing the “lightbulbs” turn on in the students’ minds and I love seeing learning actually take place.

I have the freedom to create all my materials, lesson plans, and activities for all my classes. And not only that, each class is based on a novel. So far, I have created units on the following books: Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), Romeo and Juliet (William Shakespeare), What I Saw and How I Lied (Judy Blundell), My Sister’s Keeper (Jodi Picoult), and To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). I can definitely say that teaching English through literature is the most fun thing in the entire world.

The thing I like least about teaching is dealing with unmotivated students who don’t want to learn, and as expected, I don’t love grading! 🙂

What has been something you learned while in the LTS program that you apply to your teaching now?

I learned so much in LTS that I apply to my teaching now.

  • The course on Culture, Language, and Literature (LT 528) helped me tremendously as, in my context, I teach English through literature on a daily basis in all my classes. While I was taking this class in LTS, I thought it would be really cool to teach English through literature but never thought it would be a reality for me. You never know where you’ll end up and what will actually come in handy in the future!
  • Learning how to truly write well. I can say I really learned how to write academically through completing the Master’s project. In my classes now, I teach my students academic writing, how to research, how to cite with APA format, etc. Without having put so much effort and attention to detail in my Master’s Project, I wouldn’t have been so equipped to teach this. Again, I didn’t necessarily expect that it would come in handy, but it did!
  • Like I mentioned before, through LTS, I learned how to jump into a teaching situation and figure out what to do on the spot. My teaching practicum (LT 537 Talking with Ducks) helped me with this greatly. It certainly helped me have confidence in front of a class and how to be creative without time to think.
  • Time management! As I’m sure with any Master’s program, you learn time management. However, if you don’t have time management skills, you will not survive as a teacher.

What are your hopes or plans for the future?

To be honest, I am incredibly happy where I am right now. I would like to stay here for at least two or three more years. I actually have fell in love with teaching high school English and literature, and I think maybe someday I would like to teach literature in an American high school. So far, life keeps throwing me surprises and each opportunity keeps getting better.

Do you have any advice for current and future LTS students?

To any current and future LTS students, my advice would be:

  • You may think you have an idea of what you want to teach, but life may throw you something different, and it will probably end up being better than what you could have imagined for yourself.
  • Don’t give up if you can’t find a job right after finishing your degree. Be open to any job opportunity that life may give you and when the right opportunity comes, you won’t be disappointed.
  • Be truly grateful in the workplace. I have experienced working with many grumpy and unhappy teachers. Although teaching is a hard job, if you want to survive, you have to stay positive, be thankful for the job you have, and remember the difference you are making in your students’ lives.
  • Try your best in each class in the LTS program. The topics in each class will come in handy in the future whether you can see it or not.
  • The Master’s project is a life lesson; it gives you valuable skills for life. It teaches you how to be disciplined and how to manage your time. It teaches you how to give your best when you’re exhausted and feel like you can’t keep going. These skills will help you more than you can imagine in your teaching career (and in your personal life).
  • The Master’s project gives you the opportunity to enter into the world of academia and it teaches you how to become a writer and find your voice. Recognize the importance of this and how you will use these skills in your future career.

 

November 25, 2018
by LTSblog
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Student spotlight – Jesus

Jesus with some of his students in Cusco, Peru

Jesus Napancca Herrera is a current LTS student from Peru, now in his 2nd of 5 terms in the LTS Master’s program. Here he tells us a little about his past, present, and future.

Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? Where have you traveled?

I am from Peru and lived in Cusco for many years. I was born in Lima, but since I was learning languages I thought I should move to Cusco, the city of the Incas and one of the largest tourist destinations in South America.

Tell us about your background in teaching and how you got the idea to start a language school.

I started teaching Spanish in 1997 and English in 1998. I was a private Spanish teacher for foreign visitors who were interested in taking intensive courses in Spanish. I was also teaching English to underprivileged kids from Cusco to contribute to my community. In 2000 I created a little cozy school for foreigners as well as for young Cusquenias who could not afford to pay for learning English. In April 2002 I opened Amigos Spanish School. In the same building we had foreigners learning Spanish and local young adults learning English. Both inspired each other and interacted on a daily basis.

The Amigos Language School that Jesus founded in Cusco, Peru

Another view of the Amigos Language School

What is your life like now here in Eugene? Is it very different?

My personal life hasn’t changed much. I am used to being busy every day and I even used to work on Sundays. The difference lies in the dynamic of my tasks. I used to be in charge of my work and have a group of staff working for me. Now I am working for the American English Institute at UO and I feel really fantastic! It is for me a great opportunity to grow as a person. I really appreciate my colleagues at work and my supervisors are amazing. While in Peru, I felt somehow lost and lonely because most of my compatriots thought I was busy for no reason, in a hurry and pathetically organized. Here in Eugene it is normal. So, I feel I am in my element now and don’t feel so lonely anymore. 🙂

You are teaching at the American English Institute as a GE (Graduate Employee teaching assistant) this term. What have you learned from this experience so far?

I have been learning many things, like how to work in a team. I have adjusted myself to following the new rules of this new job in a new country. My colleagues are supportive and always give me a hand at any time. There are great materials for teaching/learning English as well as new methods of teaching languages. Added to this, there is great infrastructure in the classrooms and at our offices. My supervisors and coordinator trust me in my skills as a teacher and allow me to adjust my class as I suggest. I feel privileged and for me, this experience is priceless.

What are some possibilities for your MA project at this point?

Day by day, the idea of my MA project is getting clearer in my mind. After all these months I have learned a lot in my classes in LTS and that helps me to have a better idea of what I would like to pursue in my MA project and my future career. I would like to specialize in LSP (Language for Specific Purposes) and for my future career I would like to work for companies that might need tutors or teachers for LSP.

What do you want to be sure to do during the rest of your year here? Do you have any specific goals or interests?

I would like to connect (which is already happening) the courses with my future career. I would also like to start my own consulting company to empower all kinds of schools that teaches languages.

November 2, 2018
by leilat
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Impressions of an International Student at the UO and the LTS Program

Post by Leila Tamini-Lichai, 2018-19 cohort

This post will NOT give you the typical information that you can easily find online about the LTS program or the University of Oregon. For me, as a current international graduate student in the LTS program, what I have experienced in the last month has been very different from what I thought it would be like.

I remember the time before I joined the LTS program. I had read about the program. I had checked the social media, LTS blog, and the website. I had also seen pictures and videos of the campus online, but I admit none of them did full justice to how beautiful it truly is. When I visited the university campus for the first time I was wowed by how amazing it looked. I am very happy that I got the chance to be in this program and at the University of Oregon. Therefore, I want to share my experience with you, and I hope it will help you know this beautiful university and this unique program better.

Trees 

The first thing you will notice on the campus is the variety of trees and their beautiful colors in the fall season. There are lots and lots of trees such as: oak trees, hazelnut trees, walnut trees, and many trees I don’t know the names of.

           

Other than trees there are also a lot of friendly squirrels that live on the campus and sometimes peek into your classes. There is a friendly one living around Friendly Hall where the LTS classes are usually held and according to one of our professors, he is named Harry! The picture below was taken outside our class at Friendly Hall. I usually spend my class breaks sitting on those benches and enjoying the sun. These benches can be found all over the campus.

Knight Library

Another great thing about the University of Oregon is its library. It is a great library for nerds like me. There is a huge sitting area on the first floor where you have access to computers, printers, scanners, and reference books. There is also free internet access. There are literally millions of books available to read, and there are also plenty of sitting areas provided. In the basement there’s a café, so you don’t have to go without your caffeine. I personally like the UO library very much. In the picture you can see how big the building is. The library also has a website where you can find almost any book or article you are looking for.

 

Agate Hall

Agate Hall is home to the American English Institute (AEI) and where some of our classes are held. It is a beautiful building surrounded by beautiful trees. It truly is a hall for languages. When you go in, you see students from many different nationalities and can hear very different languages spoken. Sometimes I just go there, sit in one of the study areas provided for the students, and just enjoy the environment. If you are an international student and need to improve your English, AEI can help you.

Yamada Language Center

Fortunately, we have one of our classes at the Yamada Language Center (YLC) this term. In this center, languages other than English are taught. It is a very welcoming environment for students to learn other languages. The Center is located in Mckenzie Hall and has very high tech classes. The Yamada Language Center works with a number of language departments at the University of Oregon and also has classes for less commonly taught languages such as Russian, Arabic, Persian, and Swahili.

The Faculty

Last but not least, I would like to talk about the academic aspect of the LTS program and its faculty at the Department of Linguistics. While you are in the LTS program, you will benefit from the great LTS program curriculum. You will study about the theoretical aspects of language teaching and ways of putting them into practice. From the beginning, you will participate in teaching and will have many opportunities to observe language classes. Also, the LTS faculty are very knowledgeable, kind, patient, and open minded individuals. They have always answered my questions and have gone out of their way to help me with my problems. I personally am very proud and happy to be part of this wonderful academic community.

 

August 15, 2018
by LTSblog
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Alumni spotlight: Liatris Myers

LTS students can publish too!

Lia Myers graduated from LTS in 2015 and recently published her MA project in the ORTESOL Journal. Her project title was Integrating Instruction on Pragmatically Appropriate English Oral Requests into IEP Courses in the U.S. 

Me hiking in Cocora Valley in the department of Quindío, Colombia.

What was your project about, and what prompted you to consider publishing it?

My project was about teaching pragmatically appropriate English oral requests to adult ESL learners studying English in the United States. Working in the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, I had observed that there was a strong tendency for ESL learners at all language proficiency levels to make oral requests that sounded rude to Americans and that this caused social problems for the learners who did not intend to be rude. I wanted to understand why this situation existed and how it might be resolved. It was Keli Yerian (the LTS Program Director) who suggested publishing the project. She had just read for the first time the chapters where I explained my conclusions from my research and what I was proposing to do, and also my initial draft of pedagogical solutions. Going to meet with her to discuss it, I was really nervous because what I was proposing was very unconventional – I felt it was what my data said needed to be done but I’d never heard of anything like it – and I was worried she would say it was no good. Instead, she said I really had something to contribute to the field and I should publish it. It was one of the proudest moments of my life!

Lia’s article. It is noteworthy that in the same issue another article by LTS faculty Andy Halvorsen and LTS 2018 student Kunie Kellem is also published.

What was the process?

From the time Keli told me I should publish I intended to do it, but after graduation life was very busy starting my teaching career and I didn’t complete the first draft of the manuscript for publication until after my first school year of teaching. However, I’m glad it happened that way because in the intervening time I had the opportunity to gain more practical teaching experience including with some of the techniques I discussed in my project, which enabled me to improve my manuscript with examples and suggestions from the classes I had taught. I first submitted the manuscript to the TESOL Journal, but they rejected it because it didn’t have the type of research they were looking for. I used their feedback to rewrite it and submitted it to the ORTESOL Journal. They responded that it was interesting but they thought it would be more appropriate as an extended teaching note rather than a full-length feature article (the category for which it was submitted) and invited me to rewrite it for the extended teaching note category. So I rewrote and resubmitted it, and the paper was finally published in the 2018 edition of the ORTESOL Journal (available here: https://ortesol.wildapricot.org/Journal2018). So that was three drafts of the manuscript for publication with each draft being reviewed by some combination of Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley (my project advisor), Jim Myers (my dad who has always edited my work), as well as TESOL and ORTESOL reviewers, all of whom gave me feedback to use to revise and improve the manuscript.

How much does your published article resemble your project – what had to change?

The biggest change was I had to make it a LOT shorter. The original project is 143 pages including end materials, but what was finally published is only 10 pages. This meant I had to really distill the project down to the essential points. I also added examples and suggestions from my post-graduation teaching experience and made many changes to both the writing and the content of the manuscript for publication based on feedback from TESOL, ORTESOL, Keli Yerian, Linda Wesley, and my dad, though the core ideas remained the same.

What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS, and what are your future plans?

Oh gosh, I’ve done so many things since I graduated from LTS. Besides getting my MA project published, I taught ESL/ESOL at INTO OSU (Corvallis, Oregon) for several months, then at Chemeketa Community College (Salem, Oregon) for seven terms. While at Chemeketa I wrote and piloted the entire curriculum for a new course on basic computer skills for learners who don’t know how to use a computer or who have a low level of English language proficiency or both. It has since been used by several other teachers in Chemeketa’s ESOL program and I’ve had really positive feedback on it. I also presented on integrating instruction of digital literacy skills into ESOL courses focused on other topics such as reading and writing, listening and speaking, etc. at the Fall 2017 ORTESOL Conference. This year at the beginning of January I travelled to Medellín, Colombia to have the experience of moving to a new country where I didn’t really know the language to look for a job. Seven months later I know Spanish well enough to manage my own affairs in the language, have worked at a private school (preschool through high school) in the Medellín area for a few months, and learned to dance (Colombian salsa). In September I’m headed to Japan to teach at a university there until late January. After that, who knows? There’s a whole world of possibilities out there…

The goodbye message, card, and food from the goodbye party that one of my groups of 5th graders gave me on my last day at the school I worked at in Colombia

Any advice you have for current or future LTS students?

In terms of choosing a topic for the project, I recommend identifying a problem in which you are interested, then figuring out why it exists and how to solve it. Later, if you want to publish, have practical experience with your solutions before you write it up for publication and draw on those when writing your manuscript. Be prepared to do much revision and have people around who can read the manuscript and give you good feedback to help you make it better. When you submit it, choose a journal and category that really fits what you have. Finally, don’t be afraid to pursue an unconventional idea that really seems right. It may be the novel approach that’s needed.

January 12, 2018
by zachp
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Student Spotlight: Lee Huddleston (2017-18)

It is my pleasure to introduce 2017-18 LTS MA student Lee Huddleston

Lee at Lago Querococha near Huaraz in the Andes Mountains of Peru

Hi Lee! Please tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Hello, my name is Lee and I am a student in the Language Teaching Studies Master’s Degree Program at the University of Oregon. I was born in Ketchikan, Alaska where my Dad worked in a logging camp, but I was raised in Oregon. I love the outdoors: Hiking and camping are major hobbies of mine. I also really enjoy reading (particularly non-fiction history, as well as a variety of fiction books). I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Spanish at the University of Oregon. My first experience abroad was with a high school exchange program in Costa Rica. Then as a senior in college, I studied abroad for a semester in Peru, working simultaneously as a volunteer with at-risk youth in Pachacamac, Peru.

And I know you were in the Peace Corps–how was that experience?

Lee on the picnic island Aferen with his host family taking a rest in between hauling rocks for a project on Moch Island

I served for two years (2014-2016) in the Federated States of Micronesia. My permanent site was Moch Island, a small outer island in the Mortlock island group. Looking back now, I was rather cavalier in my decision to accept that two-year placement after only a brief google search of my future home, but I have never regretted that decision. It turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The impact of this decision hit me the moment I found myself waving good-bye to my new friends from the shore of the mile-long island that would be my home for the next two years. As the motorboat carrying staff members and the other volunteers departed for the next island, I could not help but think about how I was 250 miles away from the nearest place I had ever heard of.

Lee with other Peace Corps volunteers and community leaders conducting a “Camp Boys to Men” summer camp

The Peace Corps was an eye-opening experience in many ways. It allowed me the chance to take on responsibilities, deal with challenges, and learn from mistakes and successes. On the whole, I loved my experiences on the island–they have left me with friends and family who I will treasure for the rest of my life. The skills I learned were equally formative as I navigated challenges of integrating myself into a community, learning skills for the workplace, defining my place in the culture and adapting to the idea that the borders between those things are not always so well defined in small communities.

My job on the island was as a co-teacher, teaching full-time with a local partner. This aspect was a great strength of the program mission as it allowed for mutual learning and cross-cultural dialogue between myself and my local counterpart. As a Peace Corps volunteer I also engaged in a number of secondary projects on my island, including teacher workshops, two summer camps for which I wrote up grants and helped conduct. I also helped conduct student study sessions after school for college entrance exams, and helped with the preliminary stages of building a basketball court for youth development on Moch. It was this experience teaching that stoked my passion for education, bringing me to the point of entering this master’s degree program at UO.

Wow, very cool! And how has the LTS experience been treating you?

LTS has been great so far! My fellow cohort members, the staff, and the courses have been sources of knowledge, wisdom, and enjoyment beyond my expectations.  My favorite aspect of this program is how I am able to put into action what I am learning through my work as a graduate employee at the AEI, and other professional development experiences.

What are you hoping to learn/gain from the program?

I joined this program hoping to build a theoretical foundation in current Second Language Acquisition pedagogy and put that into practice with a strong hands-on application of what I learned. While the Peace Corps was a valuable experience, I feel like before continuing on as an English teacher, it is essential that I gain the knowledge, skills, and legitimacy as a teacher that a Master’s degree in the field will give me. This will help me along the way to becoming a better, more prepared, and more qualified teacher. The way I see it, I owe it to my future students to be the best teacher that I can be.

So you mentioned you are a GE (graduate employee) at the American English Institute–what is that like?

Lee with his AEI Discussion 5 class

Yes, working as a GE at the AEI has been a great experience. Last term I taught a Discussion 5 course. Being able to apply what I learned in my courses to an actual teaching context and vice versa was extremely beneficial. I had never before worked in a university-level context, so to be able to do so in an environment as supportive as the AEI has been a real privilege. Being able to bounce ideas off of colleagues, having a supportive supervisor,  and having all of the AEI resources and facilities available to me are all great benefits of this experience. There have also been challenges, for example implementing a brand-new curriculum that was just developed by the AEI, as well as navigating the ins and outs of teaching a discussion course.

What are your goals for teaching at the AEI this term?

This term I will be teaching a new class, Listening 4, and this should bring with it new challenges that will dictate my goals for this term. One of my goals will be to better utilize Canvas and computer assisted learning to make my course more useful and engaging for my students. Another goal of mine is to try new things in the classroom, varieties of activities, and strategies to address student motivation and communicative competence. After all, one of the great aspects of this opportunity is the chance to try new things, develop myself as a teacher, and learn from these experiences.

Any final thoughts?

I am very thankful for this opportunity to be once again at the University of Oregon to continue my education. I feel like this program is very unique as it focuses on the teaching of not just English, but other languages as well. This brings a diversity to the program that makes it a pleasure to participate in.

Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! Hope you have a great Winter term!

November 1, 2017
by Trish Pashby
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Faculty Spotlight: Lara Ravitch

This week, we are pleased to feature UO faculty member Lara Ravitch, who works with the LTS program in a number of ways: guest lecturer in LT courses, MA project committee member, and advisor to the teachers of the Chinese Club at Edison Elementary School. Read on to find out more about these and many other interesting projects she works on here at UO and beyond.

American English Institute faculty member Lara Ravitch wears a number of hats at UO, including several in the LTS program.

What is your position at the University of Oregon?

I’m a Senior Instructor in the American English Institute (AEI). I am back in the classroom now after several years coordinating our Intensive English Program

What courses do you teach?

The AEI has several different programs with a wide variety of courses, and it’s expected that any given faculty member will be able to teach most of them with minimal lead time, so I teach lots of different things! I’ve taught upper-level reading and writing, lower-level speaking and listening, and student success in the IEP. I’ve also taught an eLearning course for educators around the world looking to improve their skills as teachers of young learners, and I’m currently teaching AEIS 112 and 101.

What was your path to the University of Oregon?

I majored in Russian, so after graduation from college, I wanted to spend some time there, and the easiest way was to get a job teaching English. After two years teaching in a variety of contexts in Moscow, I realized I enjoyed this work but I needed more training, so I returned to the US to get my MA in language teaching at the Monterey (now Middlebury) Institute of International Studies. During my MA, I focused on teaching both English and Russian, as well as concentrating in Language Program Administration. After graduation, I adjuncted for a year in Monterey before moving back home to Chicago, where I taught ESL and English Composition at Harry S. Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. It was an incredible experience that gave me opportunities to work on committees re-developing teacher education for the State of Illinois, improving language assessment protocols across the city, and supervising about 50 adjunct faculty in my department. The students were incredibly diverse, coming from Nigeria, the Philippines, Ukraine, India, Ecuador, Sudan, Bulgaria, Mexico, Vietnam and many other countries. I learned a ton from my amazingly dedicated colleagues and students, but after almost 10 years in the city, we decided we needed a change of scenery and looked for opportunities out west. I was excited to come to the AEI at University of Oregon because of the high level of professionalism. After working in a department where part-timers outnumbered full-time, tenured faculty by more than 2:1, and where the teaching was so intensive that few availed themselves of the limited funding for professional development, I was excited to come to an institution where all of my colleagues would be full time (and thus actively invested in developing programming and supporting students), and where professional development was both supported and expected.

What is your connection to LTS students & what do you enjoy about working with graduate students?

I have worked with LTS in several capacities. I’ve done quite a few guest lectures in various classes, teaching lessons on bilingualism, lesson planning, and outcomes-based curriculum design. I love helping to give LTS students a sense of how their learning applies in various teaching contexts.

As IEP coordinator, I also worked with LTS students to match them to observations and opportunities for research. I loved reading research proposals and am always curious about the results of the studies!

In addition, I’ve been a reader for two MA projects, both dealing with Russian teaching. I was extremely impressed with both products, which filled gaping holes in the field and would be of great use to practicing teachers.

Last (but definitely not least!) I advise the LTS students who teach the Chinese Club at Edison Elementary School. Three LTS students take turns being the teachers of about 10 young children who sign up to spend their Friday afternoons learning Chinese. I meet with the LTS student teachers once a week to discuss the previous lesson and plan the next one, and then whenever possible, I observe the classes and give feedback. It’s a delight to work with such creative and diligent student teachers and to watch the children participating actively and enjoying Chinese language and culture even at the end of a full week of school!

What other projects are you involved in?

I’m participating faculty in the Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (REEES) program, and this winter, I’ll be teaching a Russian Theater class, which includes a big final performance in Global Scholars Hall! In the summers, I run a Russian language immersion program for 8-18-year-old campers in northern Minnesota. I’ve also just begun a second MA in Special Education here at UO! I do a lot of presenting and teacher training, generally on topics related to experiential learning, alternative assessment, LGBTQ issues in language teaching, and learning differences.

What advice do you have for future language teachers? 

Our field is broad, our learners are diverse, and there is always opportunity to try something new. Don’t worry about mastering it all now – instead, adopt a reflective, lifelong-learning approach and focus on continuous improvement!

August 18, 2017
by gkm
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LTS 2016 – 2017 Cohort Final Presentations: A Brief Summary and a Fond Farewell

LTS 2016 – 2017 Cohort Final Presentation: A Brief Summary

As the 2016-2017 LTS program comes to a close, the presentations are finished and the finalized projects are rolling in! As this year’s cohort gets ready for their next big adventures in the wilds of language teaching around the globe, this final blog post for the Summer 2017 term will provide a brief glimpse of the hard work and dedication the graduates have put into bettering themselves as language educators, and into bettering the world of language education as a whole. If you missed out on the presentations this year, here is a small gallery of snapshots of each presenter’s work!

Women Teaching Women English: A Contemporary Women Writers Course for Female English Language and Literature Students in Egyptian Universities by Devon Hughes

 

Academic Writing Skills for International Students of Chemistry at a U.S. University by George Minchillo

 

 

Marching to Different Drummers: Teaching a Mixed Class of Heritage and Non-Heritage Learners of Russian with Motivation in Mind by Iryna Zagoruyko

 

Korean as a Second Language for English Speaking Husbands: a Multi-cultural Family Situation-based Curriculum by Jiyoon Lee

 

An Adaptive Place–Conscious Ichishkíin Materials Portfolio by Joliene Adams

 

Crafting a Brand in English for English Language Learning (ELL) College Athletes by Juli Accurso

 

Using TBLT to Address Locative Phrase Word Order Transfer Errors from English L1 to Chinese L2 by Lin Zhu

 

Deciphering the Cryptogram: A Word Puzzle Supplement to Traditional Lexicogrammatical Acquisition by Dan White

 

Using Literature to Develop Critical Thinking and Reading Skills in an EFL Class at University by SeungEun Kim

 

Integrating Service Learning into University Level Spanish Heritage Language Classes in the United States by Valeria Ochoa

 

A Career Exploration Course in Mandarin Chinese for Young Learners in East Asia by Reeya Zhao

 

Using Graphic Novels and Children’s Literature Books in U.S. 2nd year CFL University Courses by Yan Deng

 

Creative Writing in the Digital Age: A Course Design for Intermediate ELLs Majoring in English at an American University by Becky Lawrence

 

Using Podcasts to Teach Academic Listening for International Undergraduate Students through Metacognition: A Flipped Portfolio by Chris Meierotto

As a means of “paying forward” all of the help and support that we received from our professors, fellow classmates, and previous cohorts, the 2016-2017 cohort wrote up a short collection of thoughts and suggestions for future/prospective students regarding the final presentations:

How did it feel leading up to the presentations?

“I was able to learn a lot from the other presentations I saw. I learned how to make a good introduction to my project.” – Yan Deng

“It was definitely nerve wrecking at times. However, by this point in the program, I think us cohort members start viewing ourselves as a productive, contributing members of the field rather than students trying to play catch up, so I also viewed it as a chance to show what I could do as an educator.” – George Minchillo

“I felt great since it was a showcase of all my work, and I was happy to share my project with the cohort and faculty. It was a final milestone, and I tried to do my best for the audience to be interested and engaged in what I was presenting.” – Iryna Zagoruyko

How does it feel to know that you have the presentations behind you?

“I feel good because this was an opportunity to share what I have been engaged in for so long with the audience. After doing so many things during my time in LTS, I still felt supported when preparing for the presentations.” – Lin Zhu

“I feel free at last! However, I do think back to some parts of my presentation that I think could have gone better.” – Heidi Shi

“After doing the 2 year option and finally getting to the end of my final project and presentation, I feel exhilarated, excited, and exhausted! I’d been working on my project for a long time and it has morphed and evolved throughout my time in LTS. To present it in its final form in front of my peers, faculty, friends, and family was such an amazing feeling.” – Becky Lawrence

“It is always a bit sad to be done with anything in life. But, I feel that I did everything I could in my project, and hope very much that it could be useful in teaching mixed classes of Russian. I hope activities from my project will be implemented in the REEES curriculum here at the UO.” – Iryna Zagoruyko

What were the most difficult or the easiest parts of giving the presentations?

“I really tried to focus my presentation on entertaining the audience. I tried to leave out most of the minor details, and instead focus on showing the more ‘flashy’ parts of my project.” – Dan White

“The easiest part for me was making the draft of the slides, because I have so many things that I can pick and choose from my whole project to put in the presentation. The most difficult part was tackling audience questions, because some of them were unexpected!” – Lin Zhu

“The easiest part for me was actually having the chance to show my project! The hardest part was having a lot of information, and choosing which ones I should include in the presentation.” – Yan Deng

“For me, the most difficult part was having the confidence in the work I had done, and in portraying myself as an ‘expert’ in front of experts. The most useful part of the presentation was receiving additional feedback from peers and faculty that could be implemented in the final revisions of the project.” – George Minchillo

Any suggestions for future cohorts?

“For future cohorts, I would advise you to start thinking of project ideas early. Be creative, and try to combine your passions and interests with sound language teaching pedagogy. Take advantage of the built-in support of a cohort system, and ultimately just enjoy the process, because it will fly by before you know it!” – Becky Lawrence

“Prepare ahead of time, practice at least five times, and don’t make the slides too text-heavy! Be confident in yourself :)” – Heidi Shi

“Have confidence in the work you’ve done. You will undoubtedly be one of the most well-read and knowledgeable people about your context and materials in the room!” – George Minchillo

“Even though at this stage in the program, you will have completed 98% of your project. However, adequate time should be set aside to prepare for the presentation.” – Lin Zhu

“Enjoy the moment! Be nice to your cohort! They will be the greatest wealth in your academic life.” – Yan Deng

“Definitely be serious about your project! View it not only as an exercise, but strive to do everything possible to ‘break the ground’ in your field and context. Do not underestimate yourself – you have all the potential to create great activities/course designs for somebody to use in their teaching!” – Iryna Zagoruyko

A Fond Farewell

No matter where we go, and no matter what we do in the future, let’s always remember and think back to the knowledge, experience, and camaraderie we shared with one another as we grew into professional educators together. Even if we lose contact, or never find ourselves in a shared space again, we can always provide inspiration to one another to achieve our best, and to work hard to mold the world of academia as we see fit! For these reasons, I believe it is not necessary to say goodbye, but simply to say good luck to the 2016 – 2017 LTS cohort. I know we will all move on to do great things!

Thank you to my cohort members for all of their support! I hope to see you all again soon.
George Minchillo

“Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt. The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

July 7, 2017
by gkm
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Professional Development with the International Association for Language Learning Technology

Becky and Jeff at the banquet dinner and awards ceremony.

In addition to the many internship opportunities available to LTS students, there are also many opportunities for professional development in the field of language teaching! In March, several LTS students attended the 2017 TESOL Convention in Seattle, Washington, which was a great opportunity for them to learn new ideas from experienced teachers in the field. Becky Lawrence (2017 cohort) presented at TESOL Electronic Village, which was an amazing opportunity for her to share what she has been working on in the LTS program with other teachers.

Becky also accompanied LTS faculty and Yamada Language Center director, Jeff Magoto, to the biennial 2017 International Association for Language Learning Technology (IALLT) conference held at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota this past June. Jeff, also a longtime IALLT member, gave presentations about the Yamada Language Center and ANVILL. Becky gave a presentation about her MA project, which was great practice for the final MA presentations coming up in August.

Fun fact! The 2019 IALLT Conference will be held in our very own American English Institute at the University of Oregon, hosted by Jeff Magoto himself! Because technology in language teaching is such a crucial part of the LTS program, IALLT is a great organization for LTS students. They provide a lot of support and opportunities for graduate students and new teachers to present at conferences and publish in their journals. The IALLT organization is very warm and welcoming. Despite not knowing anyone besides Jeff upon arriving, Becky left the conference with many new friends!

For graduate students interested in attending IALLT conferences, IALLT also offers a $500 Ursula Williams Graduate Student Conference Grant to help pay for costs such as registration and housing. Becky was a recipient of this grant for the 2017 conference, and plans to stay involved in the organization to support graduate students in the future!

TESOL and IALLT are just two of the organizations that LTS students can become a part of, whether to attend, present, or publish.

To learn more about TESOL, visit http://www.tesol.org/

To learn more about IALLT, visit https://iallt.org/

Several of the graduate students who attended IALLT with Dr. Amanda Romjue (center), a 2015 Ursula Williams Grant recipient and current graduate student mentor.

June 3, 2017
by gkm
0 comments

Student Spotlight – Reeya Zhao

Student Spotlight – Reeya Zhao

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.

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