In its third year, the University of Rhode Island’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) has exceeded original expectations in terms of student and teacher enrollment and success.
As of Nov. 1, the program has 17 undergraduates students participating that are expected to graduate by 2019 or 2020. In five semesters, the program has 85 students and/or teachers who have either completed it or in the process of completion.
Amy Correia a lecturer at URI in the College of Education, and the coordinator of TESOL, has been teaching English Second Language (ESL) courses for 10 years in the state of Connecticut. At the same time, she also was training teachers to become certified to teach, also in the state of Connecticut.
Correia is very satisfied with the recent success of the program as she did know what to expect when she took the leadership position. For her, the experience has taught her about herself and her own English mechanics and has been a rewarding experience overall.
“For me, it’s been really rewarding to see the program grow and to expand to many districts in the state of Rhode Island and even out-of-state students,” Correia said. “It’s been great because one of the things that the teachers who have taken my program took away was that they didn’t learn how much it would help them become a better teacher for all of their students, not just their English learners.”
Being the coordinator comes with many different challenges. Correia has been trying to make the program as practical and affordable as possible while expanding the program all over the state. To this point, the TESOL program has spread to districts all over Rhode Island and to districts in other states.
Correia spoke on the challenges that come with educating students on the English language and how difficult it can be.
“It’s challenging,” Correia said. “My experience has been teaching high school age English learners. They come filled with different capacities, not as blank slates. For the most part, my students have literacy in their home language. The goal is to transfer their capacities into learning English.”
Although it’s a difficult process to teach ESL to English learners, Correia has loved every second of the opportunity. She noted the difference between English learners and normal students, keying in on their desire to learn the English language as best as possible.
“What’s great about working with high school age English learners is that they have a very high motivation to acquire because you want to make friends, you want to live in a new environment, you want to get a job, go to college, etc,” Correia said. “Often times, their desire to learn as quickly as they can is high and if they do have a strong literacy in their first language, it’s much easier to transfer those skills into English because they already know how to read. They already conceptually know how to write.”
Teaching these students has also helped Correia tap into what it means to be a teacher. Correia found that she learned more about her own language by teaching it to others.
“When you go to teach, it’s when you actually really learn,” Correia said. “When I started teaching English learners, I thought I had a strong command of the English language but I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know until I started teaching language, not literature. It’s made me learn a lot more about the English language.”