LTS

Language Teaching Specialization Blog Site at the University of Oregon

March 1, 2017
by gkm
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Student Spotlight – Christopher Meierotto

Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done before joining the LTS program?

Home is where I have loving family and close friends. I’m originally from the foothills of Colorado, but I’ve bounced between there, Germany, Austria, and South Korea before moving to Eugene with my wife, Jiyoon, last year for school.

Growing up the Rockies, I’ve always loved being outdoors among nature. I like to snowshoe, camp, backpack, fish, and climb mountains. I spent nearly half of my childhood sleeping in tents in nature. I also love reading, cooking, gardening, building things, drawing, and I enjoy taking pictures when the mood hits me. When I have time and money, I love traveling, learning about foreign cultures, and trying to learn foreign languages. Actually, the experiences I had learning foreign languages have directly affected my teaching, and knowing a foreign language even helped me get my first language teaching job.

I’ve had many jobs. My first job, when I was 14, was building hiking trails in the Rocky Mountains. I have also worked in a kitchen, as a mover, a landscaper, in maintenance, for a political party, in an insurance company, and for a TEFL certification program. It wasn’t until about 7 years ago that I got my start in teaching ESL in the Denver area through some local non-profits. Since then, I’ve taught both English and German, and I’ve worked in adult education with immigrants and refugees, in the South Korean public school system, in an intensive English program, and now as a GE for the American English Institute’s matriculated international undergraduate classes.

Each of those teaching contexts has brought with it a different perspective on how language is learned and how connections across cultures are made. I’ve always tried hard to make a connection and build a relationship with my students. Having learned foreign language, having been an exchange student, and having worked in a country where I was a minority have helped me relate to my students’ experiences. I’ve worked with a lot of students from many of different backgrounds, and I always aspire to be a positive influence in their lives. In turn, they’ve always impressed me with their perseverance, and my heart sings when I see them succeed using something that I helped them discover.

Tell us about being a GE with the AEIS program?. What does that entail?

It’s busy. Seriously though, I have nothing but positive things to say about my experience working as a GE for the AEI. They have a wonderful supportive and expert staff, and there are tons of opportunities for professional development offered through the AEI’s programs. I was even able to showcase a unit on teaching debate at an in-house poster session at the AEI which some of the staff have been using in their work. Teaching the AEIS classes is also a perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet at an American university level of ESL instruction. I taught AEIS 102 – Advanced Academic Oral Communication in the fall, and I’m currently teaching AEIS 112 – Written Discourse III (Research Paper). One benefit of being a GE at the AEI is that I can complement my classes with the research and coursework that I am doing in the LTS program. I am happy that I’m able to incorporate research-backed strategies and pedagogical approaches in my lessons to help our international undergraduates develop the linguistic skills that they need to thrive in the university context. I have also been able to utilize some of the CALL aspects that I’ve learned as an intermediary for supplemental instruction. The synergy created between both places is also really helping challenge me on a new level of instruction and to think beyond my previous language teaching experience, especially on the curricular level, and I am just happy to be a part of both programs.

I will say that working at the AEI as a GE does have its challenges. Being a sole instructor allows me the freedom to take control of the course curriculum so long as it aligns with the course goals, student learning outcomes, and assessment. However, with that, there is a lot that I need to dedicate towards planning and structuring of both the lessons and curriculum, as well as with providing students with useful feedback. Luckily, the methods and pedagogical approaches that I am learning as an LTS student can be directly applied to my courses, and I can develop my curriculum beyond a holistic level. I can see my growth as a language teaching professional, and seeing my students succeed makes the extra effort worth it.

It’s getting close to Master’s project time. Can you tell us a little about the ideas for your project?

My proposed MA project is inspired by my first AEIS 102 course that I taught in the Fall 2016 term. I was looking for authentic materials to use to help my students build listening strategies when I noticed that I kept coming back to public radio broadcasts not only to set the context but also to structure the lessons. When I used them in class, I received a lot of positive feedback from my students, and I was surprised how much of a diverse plethora of contexts and genres that were readily available. Because of this, I decided that I want to build a materials portfolio around using public radio in combination with other multimedia as a complement to a matriculated university oral skills curriculum to teach listening. I want to develop an array of activities that can be used to teach not only the language, but also the paralinguistic language that surrounds it. The project is still in its initial stages, but I’m looking forward to diving into it this coming spring.

Can you tell us a little bit about why you chose the LTS program? What are you looking forward to doing in your remaining time in the program?

I chose LTS for a number of reasons. First and foremost, when I started to look at graduate programs a few years back, I reached out to Dr. Keli Yerian while I was teaching in Korea. She helped to put into perspective the strengths that the LTS program had over other TESOL or theoretical linguistics programs. I liked that the degree focused on language teaching, and with that, I’ve been able to work on English, German, and a little bit of Korean in my coursework. Also, the multilingual approach meant that I would be able to work with a highly diverse and international cohort. This aspect allowed both my wife Jiyoon and I to apply and study together even though our language focus is different. I was also attracted to the fact that the program highlighted implementing technology into the language classroom and language assessment. I knew that these two aspects would be integral in my professional development. A final reason why I chose the LTS program is because of the other resources available on this large campus. I am currently taking an elective on grant proposal writing that I’m sure will help me to find funding for any future non-profit language programs that I decide to volunteer or work for.

In the terms to come, I am looking forward to learning about assessment and how to teach pronunciation. Looking at my teaching now, I know that I need work in both of these aspects. I am also excited for the opportunity to start working on my MA project. The nice thing about being a student here at UO, especially in the LTS, is that opportunities open up for students all the time.

June 29, 2016
by LTSblog
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Faculty Spotlight Jeff Magoto

What is your position at the University of Oregon?

I’m the director of the Yamada Language Center, which is one of the best jobs on campus. I get to work with faculty and students working in one or more of the 20+ languages offered at UO, whether that’s the four students taking Persian or the thousands who are taking Spanish, or the one instructor in Swahili or the many dozens in Romance Languages. Our staff of 15 tries to support their efforts by offering flexible classroom and self-study spaces, resources for language practice and development, and training in both pedagogy and technology use. Lastly, I get to join the heads of other language units in advising our College of Arts and Sciences deans on language, linguistics, and general humanities matters.

How are you associated with LTS?

I’m an ardent supporter of LTS, and even though I don’t teach in the program very regularly, I’ve been able to work with numerous LTS students over the years. I usually serve as a reader for at least one student’s Master’s Project a year, and I’m the supervisor for the Fulbright Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs) who take courses in LTS and teach in YLC’s Selfstudy Language Program, LT 199. I also regularly work with LTS faculty members Deborah Healey and Robert Elliott on course development and CALL projects for departments such as NILI or AEI .

What other projects are you involved in?

Well, I’m currently one of the conveners of the UO Language Council. UOLC is a collaborative effort of faculty, administrators, students and staff to support and inspire language study on campus and beyond through professional development, innovation, and outreach. It’s a wonderful chance to work with folks across the spectrum of CAS, International Affairs, Professional Schools, and Admissions, each of whom has an impact on who ends up in our language. classes. I also have a nearly 10 year-old speech-based software project, ANVILL, that grew out of my work as Norman Kerr’s advisor on his LTS Terminal Project in 2007. It continues to grow and improve because there have always been brave LTS alumni willing to try it out, take it out into the field, and guide us in its development. Thanks to them, it’s now used in about 10 countries in addition to the US. They still send us suggestions for improvement!

What do you enjoy most about working with language educators? (video response)

April 13, 2016
by LTSblog
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LTS Faculty Spotlight: Andy Halvorsen

Tiffany Andy Brenda in Gabon 2016

Andy in the new English Language Center in Libreville, Gabon, with Brenda and LTS alum Tiffany VanPelt.

How are you associated with LTS?

I’m a faculty member of the American English Institute, and I’ve been teaching in LTS for 2 years. I generally teach LT 436/536 in Spring (the Language Teaching Planning course). I’ve also served as an advisor on the final projects of LTS graduate students.

What else do you do in your work and teaching?

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work in the Innovative Programming unit of the AEI. I’ve worked on the development and design of our upcoming MOOC for English language teachers, and I’ve also just completed an online webinar through American English that talks about how to get the most out of your online teaching and learning experience. I’ve enjoyed being involved with educational technology here at the University of Oregon because it relates to my research interests in social media and how platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be used to enhance language learning opportunities in a number of diverse ways.

I’ve also recently been involved in our partnership with the Gabon Oregon Center and I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Gabon to deliver a scientific writing workshop to university faculty there.

Where were you teaching before you came to Oregon?

Before coming to the UO, I spent two years in Thailand as an English Language Fellow (ELF) with the US State Department. While in Thailand, I primarily did teacher training work, and I also had the opportunity to teach a weekly English course to high-schools students which was broadcast on television.

What do you think are some of the best perks of being a language teacher and teacher educator?

For me, the biggest perk about this type of work is the people you get to interact with on a regular basis. I’ve met and worked with teachers and students from all over the world, and I’ve broadened my understanding of education significantly. My recent trip to Gabon is a good example. I’d never had the chance to visit West Africa before, but the experience was amazing. I felt like I was able to improve the writing skills of the workshop participants, but, as often happens when I travel for work, I honestly felt like I took as much if not more away from the experience as the participants did!

What is something you’ve learned from your students or teachers-in-training?

video response:

November 19, 2015
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Yanika Phetchroj

My name is Yanika Phetchroj, from Thailand. I enrolled in the LTS program in summer 2009 and graduated the following summer.

What and where are you teaching now?

Now I’m teaching English at the English Department at Thammasat University, the second oldest and one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand. I 644227_212153002263945_1461405675_nhave been teaching here for three years. My students are undergraduates from various departments and years. The classes that I normally teach are English Listening and Speaking, Reading for Information, Paragraph Writing, English Structure, and English for Hotel Personnel.

What was your MA project about?

My MA project was “Activities and techniques for improving oral skills in Thai high school EFL classes”. I did this because I have strong interest in teaching oral skills. Also, from my experience as a learner and as a native Thai speaking teacher of English, I found that Thai students have problems when it comes to English speaking and listening skills. Most Thai students start learning English with native Thai speaking teachers who teach English by emphasizing grammatical rules (the traditional Grammar Translation Method), and oral skills are overlooked. Thai ELT teachers predominantly speak Thai in the English classroom and most of the major examinations such as the university entrance examination only test students’ understanding of English grammar and their reading skills. Also, many Thai teachers find it difficult to teach English speaking skills since they don’t have a native accent. The consequence from this is thIMG_0489at after many years of learning English, Thai students still can’t speak English. After taking classes in the LTS program, I was enthusiastic to do something that could improve Thai students’ oral skills and help Thai teachers teach English oral skills with confidence and comfort. So, my project combined many activities that Thai teachers can use in their classrooms to help their students learn and practice oral skills. These activities have been adapted and designed especially for Thai students.

What did you find most valuable from the LTS program? What did you learn in LTS that are you using as a teacher now?

Since I didn’t have any background knowledge in the second language acquisition before I entered the program, everything seemed new to me. Right from the beginning, it was very useful to learn the different principles and methods of language teaching. For me, I grew up with Grammar Translation Method, so it was the only way of teaching and learning English that I knew. When I learned about CLT, Communicative Language Teaching, I was very excited and couldn’t wait to apply this method to my future classes. Another favorite class of mine was Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL). I had so much fun exploring new technology that could help me teach. Nowadays, I still use some of the programs I learnt from that course in my classroom. As a teacher now, I have found myself using what I learnt from the Curriculum and Materials Development class most. Every semester I have fun creating new materials and supplements for my students based on current issues and on my students’ interests.

What did you find most challenging when you were a new teacher?

When I started teaching, I found that it was very difficult to stick to my class plan. Some activities took longer than I expected and it turned out that I couldn’t finish what I had planned at first. I also think that besides a teacher, students can make the class very enjoyable or so bland too. Some activities that I thought would be interesting to students turned to be boring. So, I had to make some changes right away. I also found that what works for some students doesn’t work for others. Some activities or teaching techniques may work well one semester, but don’t work at all the next semester with different groups of students. So it is important to find out what students like or are interested in as fast as I can to design the activities that suit them the most. 

What advice would you give current students in the program?

My advice from me will be that everyone should find the areas they are interested in the most as soon as they can, such as teaching, designing testing and assessment, or developing curriculum and materials. Because when they know your interest, they can make use of every class by doing assignments or reading something relating to it, and that will help them and their MA project a lot. Also, since the students in the LTS program are so diverse, they should take this opportunity to exchange their thoughts and experiences with their classmates who may come from different countries and culture in order to learn more and expand their knowledge.

 

 

October 5, 2015
by LTSblog
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Alumni Spotlight Norman Kerr

Norman Kerr graduated from LTS in 2007. His MA project was titled, “Preparing University Students for Self-Directed Study: An Online Chinese Course”. Below he talks about how his experiences in LTS and also in subsequent teaching career led him to his current job at the Yamada Language Center at UO.
 Kerr_LTS

What is the work that you are doing now?

I’m currently working for the Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon as a CALL expert and analyst programmer. We develop web applications for language teachers not only at the University of Oregon, but also around the world. We just released a new version of our application, ANVILL (A National VIrtual Language Lab), that provides teachers with several speech-based tools for online and blended learning classes.

 In what ways did the degree from the LTS program help prepare you for this position?

There are several ways the LTS program helped me succeed in my current job, and also at my last job as a EFL teacher in Taiwan. The first was providing theory and practice at curriculum design. With my current job it’s been very useful for understanding how to build software that can be used to either supplement the main class curriculum or as the sole curriculum for the class.

The second way it prepared me was by giving me the chance to co-teach with an experienced ESL teacher here at UO, particularly since I went into the program with no teaching experience. This was very helpful in getting my first EFL job in Taiwan.

Lastly, the CALL classes were very useful, not so much from a technical perspective, since I already had an extensive technical background, but in providing an overview of different CALL technologies and the ways to integrate these technologies into the classroom. It has been immensely helpful to know what software is already available and what purpose/problem that software is trying to solve, when developing new language learning applications with new and upcoming technologies.

Why did you initially choose to pursue an MA degree in Language Teaching?

I’ve been passionate about language learning for a long time. My bachelors degree was in Chinese, and I’ve also spent time learning Thai and Spanish. My initial reason for choosing the LTS program was mainly to enrich my own language learning skills and to extend that passion into a career that gave me the ability to work and travel and continue to learn languages.

Do you have any advice for LTS graduates who might pursue jobs other than language teaching after their degrees?

My advice, based on my own experience, is that it’s worth spending some time actually teaching before going into a different or related field. I gained a great deal from the three years I spent teaching in Taiwan, and I’m constantly putting to use that knowledge and experience, particularly in understanding the teaching process and classroom requirements for an audience I’m no longer exposed to on a daily basis, but are the end users of the software I develop. Having a mixed background of both technical and pedagogical was essential in getting my current job.

 

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