As we all know worldwide, this has been a very strange year (!) full of adaptations, concern, discovery-through-necessity, and for many, resolve to make the best of it.
LTS Summer term cohorts
All of this was true for the students and faculty in the LTS program this Summer term. For our graduating MA students, the summer term focused on designing and writing a rigorous capstone project. We’re incredibly proud of what they were able to accomplish while isolating at home… with none of our normal summer in-person gatherings! For our incoming students, the summer term meant adapting to a new intensive graduate program during a spreading pandemic, trying to focus on our love of all-things-language while speaking through a mask or a screen.
For some of our students and faculty in the department, this was a heart-wrenching time as family or community members were driven from their homes by the threat of wildfire or witnessed loved ones become sick or pass away. We mourned, for example, the passing of Arlita Rhoan, an elder and fluent speaker of the endangered language Ichishkin from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Arlita had an enormous positive impact on revitalization efforts of this Pacific Northwest indigenous language through her mentorship in her community and her decades of participation in
Not all of the summer was difficult news, thankfully! LTS students were successful in their classes and showed true grit in their studies and in their enthusiasm for our connections in the program. Many LTS faculty and some alumni also participated in two very successful pedagogical training events in August and September for individuals in the US and worldwide who were awarded the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistantship (FLTA) award or the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) award. Organized by Jeff Magoto in the Yamada Language Center (YLC), these events allowed over 150 awardees to join us remotely for intensive work on language teaching and curriculum development. It was a truly inspiring experience to see the energy that these future language teachers were bringing to the goal of sharing their languages and cultures with others internationally. In fact, we are thrilled to have three new FLTA awardees with us at the University of Oregon this Fall, and look forward to getting to know them as they take classes and share their languages with us this term and beyond (keep an eye out for a blog post about them soon!).
A screenshot from the FLTA Fulbright Canvas Welcome page in August, 2020
Looking ahead to Fall term
Now we are starting our Fall term with a little more experience under our belts about what we can gain from remote and online teaching and learning. We are all exploring how to make this experience the best it can be, and how to take advantage of the fact that a world that expects remote connection is a world that can more easily share the benefits of language. There are actually many advantages to extensive online teaching that we are just beginning to understand. Let’s go, LTS – let’s keep talking!
Sothy Kea graduated from LTS as a Fulbright awardee in 2014 and is now a TESOL language teacher educator and English Center Director in Cambodia. His particular passion for teaching pronunciation led to his MA project, titled “Integrated Oral Skills English Pronunciation Course for Cambodian College Students”.
Sothy at Angkor Wat, Cambodia
What have you been up to since you graduated in 2014?
Since my graduation, I have come back to work as a university lecturer at Institute of Foreign Languages, Royal University of Phnom Penh. I have been teaching in MA in TESOL Program and supervising MA students’ theses. In addition, I have taken a management and leadership position at CIA FIRST International School. I am currently a director of CIA FIRST English Center, which offers general English programs to students of various ages.
What have been the most rewarding aspects of your work in the past few years? Have you had any particular challenges?
Having set up CIA FIRST English Center for CIA FIRST International School has been one of the biggest milestones in my career for the last few years. It used to be only a general English program with approximately 80 students. It has now become a center offering separate English programs to approximately 500 children, teenagers, and adults. In addition, I feel blessed to have formed a dynamic dedicated team in this center, who have been working extremely hard and collaboratively to make today’s success possible. Without them, little would have been achieved! Getting to where we currently are has been quite a challenge though. Transforming an entire organization with a limited budget and human resources was never an easy task. Revamping the curriculum, growing the student number, setting new business strategies, and making other organizational changes were all what we had to do, but these required a lot of patience, dedication, and collaboration among all of the stake holders.
Do you feel that your MA project on integrating pronunciation instruction into the curriculum has been useful to you, directly or indirectly?
with a group of colleagues at CIA FIRST English Center
I believe that my MA project has definitely been useful for my career in two distinctive ways. The overall concepts and hands-on experience of this course development project have tremendously helped me with the curriculum revamping project at CIA FIRST English Center. When we revamped our whole curriculum, I could apply a lot of what I had learned from my MA project into this to make it successful. Also, in MA in TESOL Program at IFL, I have been assigned to teach curriculum and syllabus design in language teaching course in which a great deal of notions from my previous project are practical and relevant, making the teaching even more effective.
Do you stay in touch with any of your cohort members from 2013-14?
After I have graduated, I have been completely occupied with work and family. However, I have been keeping in touch with some friends and professors through email and social media. Last year, I got a chance to attend a conference in Nashville, Tennessee but could not manage to fly to Eugene to visit my professors and friends there. Hopefully, I can do so next time.
Is there any advice you would give to current or future LTS students now in (almost) 2020?
Based on my experience, I am humbled to share a few words with the current and future LTS students. Firstly, knowing your own pace is important. It would be great if you possess all the necessary skills and knowledge to deal with all assigned work in the program. However, if you realize that you usually spend a lot of time to get particular assignment satisfactorily done, then perhaps you might need a different approach. You might need to handle your class assignment as early as possible. The program is quite demanding. It requires a lot of intensive reading, research, and assignment. If you postpone all your assignment, it will build up which you might eventually find it overwhelming to meet all the deadlines. In addition, you could examine whether you lack certain background knowledge or skills to complete the assignment. If so, you might want to take further self-study to build up the necessary background. Secondly, you should seek help when needed. Inevitably at a particular moment in the program, you will go through a tough time when you feel overwhelmed, stressed, and perplexed. As a matter of fact, this is only seasonal and more importantly, you have a full support system. You could always seek consultation from your course instructors, the program director, and/or the relevant administrative staff. They are unbelievably supportive and approachable! Lastly, you should approach every of your academic course and assignment with utmost care and effort. With time and other constraints, it might be easy to compromise the quality of your works; nevertheless, this academic experience, though somehow challenging at times, will be one in a life time and rewarding in the future. Therefore, it is vital to produce the academic works or results that you are proud to show to your younger generation. Hopefully, my sharing will make a positive difference in your academic journey!
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
Sue Yoon completed her MA in Language Teaching Studies in 2017. She started as an undergraduate student at the University of Oregon who took a few Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) certificate courses and got hooked on language teaching and research. She also earned a concurrent MA in the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department while at UO.
Sue about to start her Ph.D. program at the University of Hawai’i
What have you been doing since you graduated with your concurrent MA degrees from LTS/EALL?
After I graduated with my concurrent MA degrees from LTS and EALL in 2017, I went back to Korea, hoping to gain language teaching experiences outside the university setting. While I was in Korea, I luckily had the opportunity to work at an English learning center. The students who visited the center were mostly 4th to 6th grade students from local elementary schools. The center offered programs in which students learned English in a short-period (5-10 days) immersion setting. During the day, students usually had some content classes, such as peace, culture, eco, UNESCO heritage, and UN SDGs classes, and they participated in games and activities in the evening. In the meantime, I was admitted to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and I have entered their PhD program in Korean language and linguistics this Fall term.
Sue (bottom right front) at the Global Peace Village in S. Korea
What did you enjoy while working as an English teacher in Korea?
I particularly enjoyed teaching English in an environment where the learning of English grammar was not the focus. I had a lot of fun teaching a variety of subject areas in English, and it was great to see how students enjoyed learning English integrated with other content subjects. It was also a great opportunity for me to design lessons and activities to teach content from other subject areas in the target language. From this experience, I have learned that students can learn much more when the content is relevant to their own lives and interests and that the learning environment plays a critical role in language learning.
In what ways did your MA degree(s) prepare you for this position?
Since the target learners were mostly young students, it was very important to provide them with a lot of fun interactive classroom activities and games to keep them focused and interested. What I learned from Dr. Laura Holland’s LT 537 was particularly helpful because I had gained a lot of ideas for short and long classroom games and activities for different themes from the course. Also, learning what to take into consideration when designing a lesson and how to effectively sequence activities within a lesson from Dr. Keli Yerian’s LT 436 and other LT courses definitely helped me when developing lesson plans and class materials.
What are your plans for the next few years?
I have just moved to Hawaii for a PhD program. While pursuing a PhD degree at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa for the next few years, I will also be teaching Korean language classes at various levels at the university and participating in a variety of events related to Korean language teaching and learning.
What topics are you hoping to pursue in your PhD program?
I have been very interested in multimodal analysis of Korean conversation. I would like to research the role of nonverbal communication cues that have not yet received attention, such as nonverbal speech sounds like hisses and oral and nasal fillers, in relation to (im)politeness and speaker stances. I also hope to develop pedagogical materials to bridge the perceived gap between recent theoretical findings of Korean linguistics and Korean language pedagogy.
Do you have any last advice for current or future LTS students?
I consider myself very lucky to have met Dr. Keli Yerian in LT 436 class and joined the LTS and EALL graduate programs. I really appreciate all the opportunities I had during my studies at the University of Oregon. All of the faculty members that I have met were always willing to help and support each student in the program. So don’t be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling with something!
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.
This alumni post focuses on the international adventures of Tiffany Van Pelt, who graduated from LTS in 2015 and was one of the first students to post on our LTS social media. Here is an update of what she has been doing since then.
Tiffany with soursop
What have you been doing since you graduated from LTS?
Since I graduated I have been living and working in Libreville, Gabon in central Sub-Saharan Africa. I first came here for a 6-month internship with the Gabon-Oregon Center, then returned to work in various language schools over the last two years. I teach general English courses, English for Specific Purposes, and TOEFL preparation courses to adults and teens, and I have provided some professional development training to local English teachers enrolled at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Libreville. I also do French to English translation work.
What has been most meaningful for you about living in Gabon?
For me this answer has two aspects, the professional and the personal. Professionally, the most meaningful thing for me has been being able to work with my students over the long term and watch them improve. It’s so fulfilling to see students going on to use their English skills in their professional lives outside the classroom.
ESC meeting July 2018
Personally, the most meaningful thing about living here has been the ability to rebuild my fluency in French to the point where I can clearly express myself and form deeper friendships in my community. I have a BA in French from the UO, but spent about a decade without speaking it on a regular basis. It’s a dream come true to be able to live in a francophone country and regain those language skills, and I believe it helps me remain empathetic and encouraging towards my students as they work to reach their goals in English.
I hear you have an exciting new adventure coming up – could you tell us about it?
Yes! I recently accepted a position as the 2019 English Language Fellow for Madagascar. I will be leaving Libreville in January to begin work there with the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Antananarivo. I will be working with local teachers to train on implementation of a new secondary school curriculum, as well as visiting teachers around the country to provide professional development seminars. In addition to this, I’m hoping to be able to provide some extra ESP instruction to local groups as opportunities arise.
What do you hope to learn as an ELF?
I am hoping to learn how to navigate working with local governments and institutions a way that is productive and beneficial for everyone involved. I’m also looking forward to learning from and brainstorming with the local teachers. I am excited to get their perspectives and ideas towards the implementation of pedagogical innovations in environments that may have a substantial lack of resources.
Thanksgiving in Gabon
Now that you’ve been teaching for awhile, what do you think has been the most valuable aspect of your time in LTS?
There is very little access to English books, save for those few that are imported, in Gabon. It’s very difficult and expensive to receive shipments of goods from abroad. The curriculum and materials development experiences I had in the LTS program have been invaluable in mitigating this issue and helping me develop my personal library of teaching materials.
Do you have any advice for current or future LTS students?
I have three pieces of advice for LTS students: first, take as many opportunities as you can to get in the classroom and practice! Second, start building your materials libraries now, (particularly if you plan to work abroad), as part of your smaller projects for classes or as part of your final project. These resources will come in handy later. Finally, take the time to cultivate and maintain friendships with the LTS community. Teaching English isn’t for everyone – much less living abroad! The friends that you make during the program will understand your passion for this profession and will be a huge source of support and community both now and in the future.
Hello Yuri! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Yuri at work
Dàjiā hǎo! 大家好！Hey everyone – this is Yuri speaking! Here comes a little story about myself!
Born in Shanghai China, I moved to the U.S. in 2010 for graduate studies at the University of Oregon. I started with a Master’s program in Educational Leadership at College of Education. After a year, I was fortunate enough to meet some friends from LTS and found that the program was a perfect continuation of my Bachelor’s study in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign language. Therefore, I decided to study two master’s programs concurrently in 2011 and was so lucky to be able to finish both by summer 2012. Generally speaking, a graduate like me can easily have wanderlust – where there’s a job, there’s a home.
Beijing Trip with Student
Not surprisingly, I moved to San Francisco for my first job, teaching Chinese in an elementary immersion program – the first one in the United States! It was a great year for me when I learned and accumulated a lot from my teaching experience. Yet, I must have became a secret Oregonian. Nostalgia brought me back to Portland in 2013. I started working for a newly established Chinese immersion program in Beaverton. It has been a good five years here. Thanks to all the useful study in LTS, I became the program director after two years of teaching at the school. Then recently I realized that wanderlust perhaps is the true me – just a month ago, I accepted a position at Singapore American School and am going to continue to devote myself to the field of Chinese immersion education. I am excited to realize that it is being a professional of foreign language education that makes us willing to ceaselessly wander the world…
My 1st Grade Science class
Can you tell us more about what you’ve been doing professionally since you graduated from LTS?
I first worked as an associate teacher at Chinese American International School (CAIS) in San Francisco, teaching Chinese in a 1st Grade and a 5th Grade classrooms. After a year, I joined Hope Chinese Charter School (HCCS) in Beaverton and worked as a Chinese immersion teacher as well as the Chinese curriculum coordinator. In addition to developing the Chinese program benchmarks and curriculum for HCCS, I taught students all subjects areas in Chinese from 1st – 4th Grade. In my 3rd year at HCCS, I became the director of the Chinese immersion program and the lead Chinese immersion teacher. My job responsibilities range from program and curriculum development to Chinese faculty mentoring. I also wrote the STARTALK grant and got accepted for two years to implement the student and teacher training programs in Portland, which definitely helped consolidate my skills in language program development.
My 1st Grade Math
So now you are off to your next adventure in Singapore – what will you be doing there, and how does it fit with your future career goals?
I will be teaching in their newly established Chinese immersion program and hopefully make my own contribution to their Chinese teacher professional learning community. Though it seems that it was a step-down move, it will be instrumental as I have never worked at an international school and it is always a field I’d love to explore on my career course. I am always interested in educational leadership at international schools. I believe this will be a necessary transition to lead me toward that goal.
With my LTS studymates
What did focus on while you were a graduate student at UO?
I actually had different yet later connected focuses in my two graduate programs. I focused more on comparative education in my educational leadership program, and teaching strategies for increasing language proficiency in my LTS MA project. With my post-research in Chinese immersion education after graduation, it is so apparent that language education should always be intertwined with cultural learning and studies. The teaching techniques could also be varied or fused between different educational systems. At least Chinese immersion education can speak to that – we teach American students with an American-based curriculum and certain Chinese schooling rituals. I will definitely continue with my research in this area and hope to extend my study into the impact of foreign language education on school systems.
What has ended up being most useful for you as a teacher from what you learned in LTS?
The second language teaching principles and the theories behind second language acquisition vs. language learning are really the essence to help me understand how language proficiency should be developed. I can never forget Celce-Murcia’s representation of communicative competence, which really became the theoretical basis I go by while developing my language teaching strategies. I was able to have a good understanding on the national standards for learning languages, thanks to what I have studied about Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) in some of the LTS courses. In a nutshell, the learning in LTS helped me tremendously in my language teaching career. It was my first time to trust that college/graduate studies can actually greatly benefit the career practice.
Looking back, do you have any advice to current or future LTS students?
No. 1, study well, pay attention to what you are/will be learning with LTS, because whatever you have experienced with LTS could become very instrumental to your language teaching career (if that’s what you choose ultimately).
No. 2, better not neglect the study of the theories and always pilot any strategies that you create with a real class body. I am not an empiricist, neither a rationalist. I believe we should rely on both to reflect back and forth. Sometimes theories inspire a way. Sometimes practice finds the theory. Last but never the least, enjoy what you are learning and what you will be doing as a LTS fellow!
This week’s post highlights Emily Letcher, who graduated in 2016 from LTS. Emily began thinking about a future in language teaching as an undergraduate at UO, taking Second Language Acquisition and Teaching classes. She finished her MA degree with a project titled, “Teaching Interlanguage Pragmatics of Disagreement in a Secondary EFL Context Using Film and TV Shows”, and took off to Thailand to teach middle school before settling in Mexico at a university.
What is your life like now, almost 2 years after graduating from LTS?
From Eugene, Oregon to Bangkok, Thailand. From Bangkok to Miahuatlan, Mexico…I grew up in a city of 160,000 people, moved to another of over 8 million, and then decided to settle down in a relatively unknown, southern city in Mexico of about 45,000. I say “settle down” because I now live with my five adopted dogs. All of them are former street dogs here, each with their own story. It’s not always easy to care for them, but it’s definitely worth it.
One of Emily’s rescue dogs playing in the yard
What did you do in Thailand?
Emily with students in Bangkok
Through LTS internships with the US-Thai Distance Learning Organization, which had brought Thai high school students to Oregon several times, I was fortunate enough to make a strong connection with Thailand before even setting foot there. After graduation, I went to Assumption College Thonburi and taught for six months in their English program. Shortly after I arrived, the beloved King of Thailand, Rama IX, passed away. I witnessed an amazing movement of unity and mourning within the country. Bangkok was a whirlwind experience of culture and learning for me.
Traveling in Thailand
What has turned out to be most useful for you from SLAT/LTS?
I’ve just recently completed my first year as a professor at La Universidad de la Sierra Sur (UNSIS). Students here must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and a lot of what we do is to prepare students for that exam. It’s a good challenge for me as a teacher, one that I enjoy. In the LTS program, I focused on curriculum design, so I was extremely excited about, and grateful for, the opportunity here to dive right in and do meaningful curriculum work. I recently wrote a textbook for our first-year, accelerated graduate program. Now I am teaching the course. It’s amazing to me to go through the entire cycle, beginning with those lessons in LTS, to stepping out on my own and developing a full-fledged project, to putting it into practice in a classroom and seeing its results.
Centro de Idiomas at UNSIS -the English department
Do you have any advice or thoughts for current and future students?
Always be open to new opportunities. It may be a tired phrase, but it’s true. I could never have predicted moving to Miahuatlan de Porifirio Diaz, Mexico. It certainly wasn’t part of my ‘grand plan’. I came here with the idea of staying for a short time, but found so much more worth staying for.
A parade in Oaxaca – a city with a rich and artistic culture, two hours from Miahuatlan.
Check out today’s post about a revolutionary Spanish language learning application called LingroToGo. Featured is Dr. Julie Sykes–our very own LTS faculty member and Director of CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies)–along with a couple LTS students who have worked on the app.
Dr. Julie Sykes presenting to the LTS cohort about CASLS and LingroToGo
Julie, thank you so much for joining us today. Please share with us what makes this APP so special:
LingroToGo is the first comprehensive app that explicitly targets language learning strategies, pragmatics, and function-based language learning. Moving beyond the translation of words and phrases, the app really helps people work on how to use the words and structures they learn in a meaningful way.
What about the pragmatic component of it?
Pragmatics really focuses on the exchanges of meaning and the avoidance of miscommunication whenever possible. It is exciting to see pragmatic components of language treated systematically throughout the app.
And there’s video too?
Yep. There are a robust set of videos that focus on strategies and pragmatics, the two pieces of a language learning curriculum which are often not seen in teaching and learning materials.
Awesome! And just curious, where did the name LingroToGo come from?
The Lingro part of the name comes from our collaborative partner, Lingro Learning and the ToGo piece parallels the name of one of our other tools, LinguafolioToGo, a comprehensive e-portfolio designed for language classroom.
LTS (2017) alum Dan White, who developed the Cryptogram feature of the Lingro App as his Master’s Project, had this to say about his time working on Lingro: “The Lingro App was a very fortuitous opportunity for me, as I was hoping to find a project that revolved around creating a game or puzzle for language teaching. I had never done app development before, but I was familiar with coding. Fortunately, Julie gave me the opportunity, and the app development team were very patient with me as I learned how to develop the Cryptogram. I was so pleased that my contribution made it into the final product, and it really stands out when you are using the app as one of the most challenging features. I can take this app development experience with me in the future, and I look forward to developing my own language apps.”
Current LTS student and CASLS GE (Graduate Employee) Zach Patrick-Riley: “This app is simply revolutionary. It does a perfect job of showing what 21st century education should include; not just a focus on language but strategies for successful interpersonal communication and autonomy building. My favorite part has to be the videos in each section. Maybe I am a little biased because I have helped create a number of them, but they are so fun and engaging to watch! Seriously, check out this app, te va a encantar y aprender español muy rápido.”
Other LTS students who have contributed to this app include Christopher Daradics (2016) and Valeria Ochoa (2017).
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.
“Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt. The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein