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.
In April, LTS faculty member and NILI Associate Director Robert Elliott travelled to Costa Rica to partner with the University of Costa Rica (UCR) in San José to offer 2 weeks of workshops for Indigenous language teachers.
Robert (far left, back row) and the workshop participants in San José, Costa Rica
Tell us about your experience. Who did you work with in Costa Rica?
In partnership with Professor Carlos Sánchez Avendaño of the UCR linguistics department, and Kara McBride of World Learning, the workshops were developed for 15 Indigenous language and culture teachers from 7 languages throughout the country of Costa Rica. The languages – Ngäbere, Buglere, Malecu, Bribri, Cabécar, Boruca, and Térraba – are in various states of endangerment, and the teachers work predominantly with middle-school aged children.
During a session about online teaching resources
How were the workshops structured?
The workshop was divided into two parts and were loosely based on the model of NILI summer institute classes. The first week, the teachers received training in pedagogy in the morning hours while the afternoon was geared towards learning to use technology tools and generating ideas for making greatly needed language learning materials for their classes. The second week was centered around giving time and support for the teachers to build materials to take home to their communities and share new ideas with other teachers. On one of the last days, the group was able to visit Carlos’ “Languages of Costa Rica” university class, and the teachers all got to use some of their new techniques to teach his class a bit of their languages.
Recording the language of a participant for a teaching material
How do you think the workshop is relevant to LTS and future language teachers?
In some ways, we as language teachers are all in the same boat. We are all involved with promoting language, culture and opening people up to new world views. But having LTS faculty actively involved in minority and endangered language situations is fairly unique and adds to our program. First, we do have future teachers in the LTS program who are planning to teach less commonly taught languages and endangered languages and having faculty actively involved in these issues is important for these students. Further, all future language teachers should be aware of the effects of globalization and the extreme loss of smaller languages both in the Pacific Northwest as well as in the world at large. It is likely, for example, if you teach ESL in the US or Latin America, that you will have speakers of indigenous languages in your class and you may not even realize it. For much of the world, a language exists in a system of other languages, and while we have the ability to do much good as language teachers, opening doors to our students that would not otherwise exist, we also need to also be aware of our ability to do great harm, even unintentionally, particularly to smaller and fragile languages. We hope that all of our teachers leave the LTS program with a sensitivity towards these issues.
What else did you do there?
While the schedule was busy, not everything was all business all the time. In the evenings and weekends the group was able to visit different venues in and around UCR, such as the Insect museum at the university and the National Museum of Pre Columbian Gold in the center of San José.
How about a snack?
The insect museum contained specimens of gigantic tropical bugs, and we were offered some freshly prepared cockroaches and larvae to sample – yum! The Pre-Columbian museum was described as bittersweet by one of the participants: very interesting but also a reminder of the difficult history indigenous people have endured in Costa Rica and the Americas. I was also able to sneak in some seriously needed beach and surfing time at one of the stellar surf spots in the country, and got lost in a tropical rain forest in the mountains one day. This was an invaluable experience, and I look forward to participating in more workshops for indigenous teachers 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.
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
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Saba Alamoudi. I am from Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The holy city for Muslims and one of the oldest cities in the world. It’s a crossroads and melting pot of many world cultures. People come to this city from many places around the world every year.
I was born in Makkah and lived in this city for my whole life, and I got my bachelor’s degree in Arabic literature from Umm Alqura University in the same city. After I graduated, I tried to find a job there related to my major, but I did not find anything. I decided to apply for a scholarship through the Saudi government to come to the U.S. I came to the U.S in 2012 and I started learning English. I was planning to teach Arabic as a second language and the LTS program was the perfect program for me to achieve this goal. Therefore, I decided to apply. I have tutored Arabic learners and lead the Arabic circle in the Mills International Center when I was an English learner in the AEI. I also was involved in many activities to introduce Arabic culture to American and international students through the Saudi and Muslim Students’ Association of the UO. After I enrolled to the LTS program, I got a job as a language instructor in Umm Alqura university in my hometown, which I will start after I graduate from the LTS program.
Could you tell us about any internships or GE positions you had at the UO?
I did an internship to work with Arabic instructors at the UO in some Arabic language classes that focused on teaching modern standard Arabic and the Egyptian dialect. It was a great experience for me. I learned from the teacher a lot of things related to teaching Arabic in an EFL context with students speak the same native language. I got the chance to teach in these classes and I learned a lot from the experience such as managing class time. One big challenge was to teach Arabic by speaking English in the classroom. For example, explaining many grammar rules or explaining vocabulary meaning using the English language. Arabic language classes in the UO helped me to realize the challenges that students face when they communicate and interact with native speakers. Arabic diglossia was the main challenge. The students were learning in most of their classes the Modern Standard Arabic which is used in very formal context such as academic context while native speakers use their own dialect to communicate with each other. The standard and the spoken languages are very different and it was hard for the students to understand native speakers when they speak. After spending some time helping students to realize the differences between the standard and the dialect, and after attending a Arabic class that focus on teaching the Egyptian dialect, I realized that the main difference is the pronunciation. That led to the focus on teaching pronunciation to clarify the problem of comprehensibility and intangibility in the communication between Arabic learner and native Arabic speakers.
Could you tell us a little bit about the ideas that you have for your Master’s project?
My Master’s project focuses on integrating teaching Pronunciation In Arabic curricula as a second language through some activities. I focus on both segmental and suprasegmental features for modern standard Arabic and the western Saudi dialect. My goal is to help students learn how to use what they’ve been learning in the modern standard Arabic language classes to interact and communicate with native speakers. Learning more about the differences in the the sound systems for both varieties of Arabic can help them avoid a lot of intelligibility and comprehensibility problems.
What is the most valuable thing that you’ve learned during your time at the UO?
Professors at the UO, especially the LTS program, have different teaching styles than most professors in my country. One main valuable thing that I learned is how a great teacher should be. Other valuable things that I learned and appreciated during my time in the program are the teacher and peer feedback in the classroom, the classroom discussions, the microteaching activities and practice that I have had during my learning journey. It helped me to apply and experience a lot of things that I learned theoretically in the program, and it helped to shape my teaching perspective and style. Finally, I learned that language is more than vocabulary and grammar rules. Also, culture is always associated with learning languages; therefore, including pragmatic, sociolinguistic and suprasegmental aspects is very important to teaching a language effectively.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done?
Hello, my name is Adam (天天). I come from a small city with over 2,500 years of history – Kaifeng, China.
Becoming a foreign language teacher has always been a dream I am enthusiastic about. Before coming to the US, I got my bachelor’s degree in Teaching Korean as a Foreign Language in South Korea. After graduation, I did different types of jobs including Chinese teacher in a Korean academy and liaison of international affairs in a Chinese college.
You are also completing a degree with the East Asian Languages and Literatures department. Can you tell us about what brought you to the LTS program?
I started my studies at the U of O in 2015, with my first major Korean Linguistics. Knowing that I have interests in language teaching, my advisor Professor Lucien Brown suggested me taking classes in the LTS program in order to fulfill my graduate requirements. However, what I learned from the first course – Curriculum and Teaching Material Development was way beyond my expectation. Realizing the tight connection between my first major department and LTS, I went on taking more courses in both programs. In summer 2016, with the help of the program director Professor Yerian, I got accepted by LTS as a concurrent degree student. Courses I took in the LTS program have strongly helped me to achieve my career goal. Those courses refreshed my mind with teaching methodologies, second language learning theories and other skills that I hadn’t thought about or been aware of.
Could you tell us a little bit about the ideas that you have for your Master’s project?
This summer, I am going to finish the draft of my Master’s Project for LTS. This research report shows evidence that what affects the judgement on accentedness of second language learners from Korean native speakers are the errors in applying “pitch pattern” of phrases.
Could you tell us about any internships or GE positions you’ve had at the UO?
In addition to my studies, I am also enjoying a couple of opportunities to apply the skills I have learned from the classes. During weekdays, I teach beginner level Korean as a Graduate Teaching Fellow. The class consists not only American students but also a large portion of international students who are also interested in Korean language and culture. Every Friday afternoon, I meet kids in the Edison Elementary school for a Chinese Language and Culture Club. This after-school club offers Grade 3-5 kids the chance to experience very authentic Chinese culture as well as tons of fun games. In both classes I feel rewarded for seeing students loving the activities I design and the language and culture I share with them.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done? Do you have any hobbies?
My name is Iryna Zagoruyko and I am originally from Ukraine. I moved to the U.S. 5 years ago. I got my first Master’s degree in Business Administration in Ukraine. After graduation, I worked as a manager of foreign economic relations at the Korean International Company in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. Also, in Ukraine I worked as an Interpreter of English for foreign economic delegations. After I moved to the U.S., I worked as a student specialist in the ESL Department at Lane Community College in Eugene. After that, I did my second Master’s degree with the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies Department at UO, simultaneously teaching first- and second-year Russian courses as a GE for two years (2014-2016). Being a Russian GE really changed my life goals: I understood that language teaching is my passion and decided to receive more knowledge on that. Now I am a graduate student at the LTS program of the Linguistics Department of the UO, and plan to receive my third Masters’ degree in language teaching this Summer.
This year was quite intense for me. Juggling being a graduate student in the intense LTS program, working at CASLS, and having a small baby (who was born three weeks after I started the LTS program) was quite a challenge. I did not manage to have a lot of free time for hobbies or interests and had to plan smartly to balance all aspects of my life. But every spare minute I have I try to spend with family: my baby and my husband. We really enjoy hiking together, going to the coast in Florence, and just being together at home.
Could you tell us more about your GE position at UO?
This year I was a graduate employee (GE) at CASLS (Center for Applied Second Language Studies) at UO. I worked on the Russian version of CASLS’ Bridging Project, a year-long hybrid course centered on exploring student identities. This project encourages students with high levels of proficiency, especially heritage students and those who graduate from immersion programs, to continue language study at the college level, which has become increasingly more challenging. CASLS is a great environment where people support and value each other. It was a big honor for me to work in such a highly-valued and highly-recognized National Foreign Language Resource Centers as CASLS. I truly believe that work which is done at CASLS will improve teaching and learning of world languages.
Could you tell us a little bit about the ideas that you have for your Master’s project?
My master’s project is called “Marching to Different Drummers: Differentiated Instruction for Teaching Mixed Classes of Heritage and Non-Heritage Learners of Russian with Motivation in Mind.” The motivation for this project is to offer language teachers access to the concepts of differentiated instruction, and strategies for applying it to their specific teaching context – mixed/homogeneous classes of heritage and non-heritage learners of Russian of novice to intermediate levels of proficiency.
What is the most valuable thing that you’ve learned during your time at the UO?
Probably, that we, LTS students, are all in a perfect place to gain very valuable knowledge on teaching which we can later apply in our lives. Professors in the LTS program possess extremely high levels of expertise in language teaching and offer us great support. Being a part of a single cohort of LTS students who are taking the same classes and doing the same projects together is really fun.
Tell us about yourself! Where are you from? What work have you done? Any hobbies?
I was born in Cheongju, South Korea, but when it was time to go to university, I moved to Seoul, and I lived there for almost ten years. I majored in Korean language and literature and journalism, and in my last year of university, I got the Korean language teaching version of a TEFL certificate at another university. After graduation, I started working teaching both Korean and English to speakers of other languages at a community welfare center and an NGO. I also worked in program administration managing language classes and tests at a university and at a couple foreign resource centers for the city of Seoul. During that time, I met my husband Chris, and we decided to move to America and apply for graduate schools. We spent almost nine months in Denver, Colorado before coming here to Eugene.
I have quite a few hobbies. I really enjoy going to see movies in the theater. My favorite movies are horror movies and thrillers like the Korean movie The Wailing(곡성) or the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I like romantic comedies too. I also like baking and cooking. I always find baking to be a good stress relief when school gets too stressful. Recently, I’ve also started gardening. This is the second year in a row that we planted a vegetable garden in our backyard. I’m surprised how well we can grow tomatoes and other vegetables in our garden.
What was your experience being a Graduate Employee for the Korean department at the UO like?
Being a GE at UO was a great experience. This was the first time that I was able to teach Korean outside of Korea, so working with the undergraduate students was a lot of fun. But, I have to say that being a student and a teacher at the same time is pretty challenging. I think the biggest challenge was adapting to a new student culture. To be honest, it was a bit intimidating at first. However, if I look back at my experience, I can see how the LTS program helped me improve my teaching ability and build my confidence over the two terms I was a GE. I learned a lot about second language teaching in my LTS courses, and I was able to use that information to help improve my teaching. Also, the cohort and the faculty from both the LTS, and East Asian Languages and Literatures departments were really supportive and they gave me some good advice for some of the challenges I had while teaching. I still see my former students around campus or in Eugene, and they always politely say “hi (안녕하세요)” to me by bowing and speaking in Korean. I’m always impressed by their correct honorific usage and culturally appropriate behavior, so I can tell that they had a good GE teacher. 😉 I’m looking forward to teaching them in second year Korean this fall.
Could you tell us a little bit about what you are focusing on for your Master’s project?
Actually, I’m pretty busy right now because I’m working on both my MA project and a publication with Dr. Brown in the EALL department about Korean speech-style use in the marketplace. Luckily, I’ve been able to focus a lot of my LTS coursework on my MA project.
For my MA project, I’m designing a Korean as a second language course for English-speaking husbands of Koreans living in Korea. When I got married to Chris, I saw that the language that he was learning in the textbook and in his Korean academy wasn’t really helping him communicate with my family or to perform daily tasks in Korean society. I belong to a forum of Korean women who are married to foreign spouses, and they often say similar things about their husbands. So, I found a need, and I’m designing my project to fulfill the need of teaching functional survival language skills and sociocultural competence for English-speaking husbands of Koreans. It’s a lot of fun to think about new ways to help the husbands learn about Korean family communication using problem-based learning.
What is the most valuable thing you have learned since joining the LTS program?
I can’t really say that something is the most valuable because I’ve learned a lot of valuable things in this program. Of course I’ve learned a lot of practical aspects about teaching language and about developing assessments and language courses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the purpose of a cohort. I wasn’t familiar with the cohort system until I came to UO, but I think the cohort is a really amazing thing because everyone is very supportive of each other. I’m pretty shy and introverted in general, but I’m amazed at how many people help me by giving me feedback on projects or assignments, or when I give presentations. Their support has helped me to build confidence in myself as a non-native English-speaking graduate student. Graduate school is hard, and I think it’s even harder as an international student because of the linguistic and cultural differences, especially for someone who hasn’t had experience studying in an English-speaking university like me. However, just by being in classes with the cohort makes me feel like we are all in it together, and it helps to motivate me to continue to work hard in my studies. Also, the faculty has all been really kind and helpful, and I value how much they have supported my development as a Korean teacher, and in helping me find opportunities.
From Left to Right: Duong Hong Anh, Kainat Shaikh, Irene Njenga, Suparada Eak-in
This end-of-term Student Spotlight is a special “goodbye” to our dear friends, colleagues, and classmates from the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. The Yamada Language Center at the University of Oregon has hosted these four lovely language teachers throughout the 2016-2017 school year, and the LTS cohort has had the wonderful opportunity to study along side them in the various Language Teaching courses they participated in. The YLC has been proud to welcome the FLTA’s without whom 4 of the 8 Self Study Program languages would not be available to the UO students and community. Now that Spring term is over, each scholar will soon be heading back to her home country, and the LTS program would like to recognize and remember the wonderful experiences we got to share with them!
Tell us about yourselves! Where are you from? What kind of work have you done? Any hobbies?
I am Anh Duong. I come from Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. I am an English instructor at the University of Languages and International Studies back in my home country. I was granted the Fulbright scholarship last year and came to UO to study and work as an FLTA. About my personal life; I love music, movies, traveling, reading, and taking pictures. Since I came here, I have taken up cubing, basketball, and playing the guitar as my new hobbies.
I am from Hyderabad, Sindh, Pakistan. I work at the National University of Modern Languages (NUML), so currently I am on leave as I am availing the Fulbright Fellowship. I teach graduates and undergraduates majoring in English Literature and Linguistics. I like reading books, and writing critical reviews. I enjoy traveling, especially to the places which have had a rich history.
My name is Irene Njenga, and I am from the central region of Kenya. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics and a Master’s in Education, both from the University of Nairobi. Before coming to UO, I had worked in two places. My first job was at Dadaab Refugee Camp (Kenya) as the officer in-charge of the Accelerated Learning Program, and my second job was as an English teacher at Mukurwe High School (Kenya). I enjoy traveling and socializing with people from different cultures because it opens my mind to new ways of thinking and stimulates my creative problem-solving skills. I also enjoy swimming, cooking, reading novels, listening to music and watching movies.
My name is Suparada Eak-in. I am from Thailand. Back in Thailand, I worked as a lecturer of English in the Department of English and as a Deputy Director of the International Office at Mahanakorn University of Technology. My specialization is Teaching English as a Foreign Language and Teaching English for Specific Purposes. I taught EAP and ESP to non-English majors including Engineering, IT and Business students. In my free time, I like learning new languages, doing art and working out. Now, I am learning four languages: Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese by myself. I also draw and take pictures. My favorite exercises are jogging, Thai boxing and yoga.
Tell us about teaching at the UO as an FLTA! What is that like?
One of my key missions in the US is to teach Vietnamese to both students at UO and community members at the YLC. I appreciate the chance to teach my native language and share Vietnamese culture with American people as well as heritage students. Thanks to the Self Study Program at YLC, with small-size classes but extensive interaction with students, I have precious opportunities to listen to many individual stories, enabling better understanding of American culture as well as my own culture.
The YLC is the place to grow professionally, interdependently and culturally. I never taught Hindi/Urdu before coming to US, though it is the national language of Pakistan. I, being a native speaker, learned a lot about my culture, language and country by staying oceans away and that’s not only remarkable but a kind of liberating feeling.
Although I have been teaching for one year before becoming part of YLC, participating in the program has provided me an insight to see language teaching not as a way to show how languages are different from one another, but as a platform to let me explore how languages all around the world are spoken in their natural, cultural and raw forms. So, in order to completely imbibe in this language teaching experience, I myself decided to learn a new language. I attended classes of Turkish. New language gives a new lens to view the world. As such it may seem that speaking different languages actually makes us different from one another but actually learning a new language makes one feel connected to the wider community which is not one’s own. In one place, where creating borders may divide us, but learning new languages can unite us, this is my takeaway from YLC.
Swahili is one of the easiest languages to learn! Although a biased view, it is true that Swahili is not a tonal language, has a fixed stress pattern, and words are spelled exactly how they are pronounced i.e. no silent letters! Teaching Swahili at the UO has been very rewarding. It has also been a great opportunity to interact with new cultures and incorporate Swahili culture into language teaching. I believe that my students enjoyed the lessons and gained competence in using the language. This has also helped me refine my teaching skills and familiarity with using the communicative approach in teaching grammar. I never discussed grammar in a tabular form and very rarely used grammar technical terminology.
Teaching Thai at YLC is different from teaching English at my university in Thailand. Firstly, YLC classes are small with no more than fifteen students. This provides me the opportunity to get to know my students more so I can facilitate their language learning more properly. Moreover, YLC offers the Self Study Program which places emphasis on the students’ needs. The challenge is to compromise/balance students’ individual needs and prepare the lessons to serve their needs efficiently. Lecture-based and commercial textbooks seem not to correspond with YLC students’ learning styles and goals. Thus, I mainly implemented a theme-based method in my classes. I set the themes according to the students’ needs and designed interactive activities to engage students in learning. I found that the students enjoyed learning and improved their skills proficiently.
What classes did you take during your time at UO? Did you have any other projects that you worked on? What was the most valuable thing you’ve gained from your experience here?
Apart from teaching Vietnamese, I also attended some classes, two of which were Teaching English Culture and Literature, and Testing and Assessment in the LTS Program. The most significant thing I took from these classes is the inspiration from my professors and classmates. I especially enjoy the lively and thought-provoking discussions with different points of view and practical projects in teaching that will benefit my own teaching in the future.
I enrolled myself in three courses, one course per term. My grant with Fulbright ensures that I grow strong academically by taking the classes that can serve my long term goals. Therefore, I took classes in LTS all three terms; Teaching Culture & Literature in Language Classrooms, Teaching Pronunciation, & Teaching and Assessment. My time with LTS cohort is worth treasuring as I met intelligent and creative people from various parts of the world.
From my entire year at UO, the most valuable asset that I have gained is to challenge the limits, and to outrun them.
I took classes in Language Teaching and International Studies. I worked on various projects like incorporating literature into English language teaching, education and culture in Kenya, as well as creating direct types of assessment. The most valuable thing I have gained is that language teaching can be fun. I have learned how to use different scaffolding activities in teaching language, classroom management techniques, key assessment principles, and skills in creating and/or adopting assessment tools and procedures for the language classroom.
I took two classes in LTS and one class in Linguistics. The classes in both programs provided me knowledge that I can apply in my teaching career. My favorite class was Teaching Pronunciation, which I took last term. I like this class most because I did not only learn the contents but also had opportunities to practice. Besides, I like observing the techniques that Dr. Patricia Pashby used in class. I found those techniques useful and worked well with my students.
Apart from teaching and learning, I worked as a cultural ambassador in the ICSP at UO. I presented Thailand and Thai culture to school students and senior communities in Eugene. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk with local people outside of the university and have productive cultural exchanges.
Any plans for the future, or final thoughts you would like to share?
My gratitude goes to the Fulbright program for giving me a chance to come to the US, meet amazing people, and share my story.
When I go back to Pakistan, I will resume my teaching, but there will be entirely different teaching methodologies. I will be working on making classes more student-centered where students should take responsibility of their learning. I learned a lot about testing and assessment this last term, and it has completely changed my perception towards language teaching. I am really looking forward to using the new teaching and testing trends which can ensure learning for not just a fleeting moment but for a life-time.
Irene leaves us with her favorite quote:
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe that despite the obstacles we face when pursuing our dreams, we should always be focused and keep working to realize them.
All of these experiences make me eager to go back and share them with my colleagues and students back home. I also want to better develop teaching methodology and education in my home country.