On Saturday, April 2, the McNeill Room in the LaFortune Student Center was abuzz with activity. Students, professors, faculty, and even a few children enjoyed Venezuelan and Korean food while learning about what can be done with a TESOL-enhanced education.
TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and linguistics courses have been a part of the CSLC's curriculum for years, but until now there has been no formal TESOL program through the University. Just this past December, the TESOL minor was put on the books. Students who declare the TESOL minor will learn about linguistics, classroom management, and lesson planning, and will get hands-on experience in teaching English before graduating.
Several speakers presented their own experiences with TESOL, providing multiple points of view. Leah Zimmer, the director of The Language Company- South Bend, talked about the intensive English program that students go through to attend English-speaking universities. With over a million international students in the U.S., TESOL-certified teachers are in high demand.
Zoë Gioja, the National Fellowships Coordinator at CUSE, spoke next about her role at CUSE and her experience as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in South Korea. Notre Dame is a top producer of Fulbright students, who travel the world to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries." As a Fulbright ETA, Gioja considered herself to be "more of a cultural ambassador than an English teacher." As the coordinator of national fellowships, she believes that applicants with a background in TESOL have more competitive applications and are better prepared once they arrive at their destinations.
Following Gioja was Donggyun Kim, a teacher from South Korea who is spending the year teaching in the U.S. Donggyun taught English to high schoolers for over a decade, and proposed 3 key benefits of a TESOL education: experience, maximized chances of finding a job, and an enhanced life overall.
Dr. Hana Kang, one of the professors in the TESOL minor, taught TESOL courses at the Ohio State University and Michigan Technological University before coming to Notre Dame. She believes that without her TESOL background, her opportunities would have been more limited. Maddie Hahn, a senior at ND and student of Dr. Kang, turned a final paper for a class into a full-blown research project in Chile. She's slightly upset that the TESOL minor wasn't offered earlier, but credits her TESOL coursework for helping her create opportunities for herself.
Finally, the CSLC's own Joachim Castellano and Lisa Oglesbee spoke on their TESOL-related experiences. Joachim, who majored in radio, television, and film as an undergrad, knew he didn't want to end up behind a computer all day, but also knew that he needed to travel the world and express himself creatively. He ended up in Japan without any knowledge of Japanese language or culture, and decided to pursue a master's degree in TESOL. Since then, he's taught (which he claims is a creative act itself), and presented research in over 20 countries, and continues to publish regularly in journals. Lisa, who teaches several TESOL courses, specializes in classroom training and helping students master second language acquisition. For her, "imparting knowledge and skills to someone who can really use them, is so rewarding."
Check out the new TESOL minor today, and prepare yourself for a brighter tomorrow.