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TESOL Program Provides Promising Future for Students

By Linda Abel
University Communications

MAY 12, 2009 | The University of Wisconsin-River Falls English department’s TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages) program has been active since 2000 and has allowed a number of its graduates to teach English here and abroad.

Vladimir Pavlov, an assistant professor, has coordinated the program since joining UWRF in 2004. The program is designed to train students from any major how to use their native English speaking skills to assist and teach the language to those who are non-native English speakers.

“Students can pair TESOL with many degree programs, and the most common are those who are in the liberal arts or in education programs,” said Pavlov. TESOL combines both ESL (English as a second language) and EFL (English as a foreign language) and gives students the necessary skills to instruct people from either group on the English language.

TESOL is offered as a minor, major, double major or graduate degree, and Pavlov says there are many teaching opportunities to those who have a degree in TESOL.

“Students who graduate with a TESOL degree or come back and join the graduate program with TESOL have a better chance of getting hired, because the demand is very high for ESL/EFL teachers,” said Pavlov. “Students have the option to work around the world with speakers of other languages, teaching them American culture as well as the English language.”

Victoria Reiner, a TESOL student from Minneapolis, says she would like to use the degree to teach English abroad. “I would like to spend a year in Chile, Argentina or Spain teaching elementary and high school students,” she said.

One part of the TESOL program is the foreign exchange program, which allows students from partnering Asian universities to study at UWRF while students from UWRF go there to learn more about Asian culture and earn TESOL credit through teaching experience.

As a resource to foreign students, the TESOL program offers writing center designed specifically to assist exchange students with their papers and homework questions. “It’s a wonderful resource for students who are here studying abroad and would like extra help with papers,” Reiner says.

In addition to the writing center, TESOL also coordinates a “speakers corner,” where students come to discuss life issues and topics with native English speakers.

“This is a way for students to practice their English skills and make new friends,” says Pavlov. UWRF offers four types of graduate degrees within the program, including a Master of Arts, Master of Arts with teaching licensure, a graduate certificate and an additional ESL licensure.

Each degree is specially tailored to a career path, but all enhance a previous teaching and nonteaching degrees. According to Pavlov, the number of students enrolled in the graduate program increased 4 percent from 2008 to 2009.

Within the last month, the TESOL program has received approval from the UW System Board of Regents, allowing all TESOL program graduates to receive a Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction license, required for instruction in public school.

In addition to the standard course work that is involved in the TESOL program, students can take an internship in Europe or Asia. The internships may involve instructing children or adults. For example, one internship site is ARTEK, a children’s camp in Ukraine, where 5,000 children--mostly Ukrainian and Russian--go during the summer and can learn about the English language. This camp offers jobs to UWRF TESOL students so they can work on- on-one with people of different native languages.

Aside from the education that that foreign language speakers are gaining here at UWRF, the American students are also learning more about their own language.

“The more I learn in the TESOL program the more it does intrigue me, and I think that teaching English to others is very important today,” said Emily Bradac, a TESOL student from Stillwater, Minn. “It improves my understanding of how languages work and forces me to question why and how I say the things I do in my native language.”


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