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