I began teaching at 19 years old, in Shenyang, China, as an instructor of English as a Second Language to children ages 4 to 16. I arrived late on a Friday night; by 10 o’clock Sunday morning, I was in a classroom. The first lesson I ever taught was on past tense verbs, to a room full of 8-year-old children, with a 6-week online TESOL course and 2 hours of teacher observation as the sum total of my training. I spoke no Chinese. The August heat was suffocating. Their eyes blinked at me. It was not magical, or transcendent, or transformative, that day; and yet, in the midst of all of my panic and so much strangeness, something felt right enough to continue.
And so I have. Here is a brief history, in chronological order, of (some of) what and where I’ve taught since then.
I spent a year in China (2004-2005) teaching ESL at all levels (beginners, intermediate, advanced) at ALIFA Sushan English Language Center and Tai Yang Elementary School. I also spent several months in 2006 in Ayutthaya, Thailand, teaching intermediate ESL at Ayutthaya Public High School to grades 10 and 11.
Thanks to my experience teaching ESL and my interests in Spanish and immigration justice, I was asked to be a founding co-organizer of the Futuro Latino Learning Center at Goucher College in Towson, Maryland. Here, I taught beginners ESL to Spanish-speaking adults ranging in age from 20s to 70s, as well as a bilingual cultural children’s program. I also helped to coordinate curriculum and train other teachers. I served as a TA in the Spanish Department of Goucher College during the same period, and also as a tutor at the undergraduate Writing Center, where I implemented new resources to help international students/students who spoke English as a Second Language.
After graduating college, I taught high school English Language Arts as a Teach For America corps member for two years (2011-2013) with IDEA Public Schools in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. I was nominated for Teacher of the Year for the 2011-2012 school year and served as 10th grade Team Leader for the 2012-2013 school year. As Team Leader, I was the lead parent contact for disciplinary and grade-wide issues and the lead planner and fundraising director for the 10th grade college visit trip to San Antonio, among other responsibilities. I was also asked by Teach For America to lead several professional development workshops for other teachers based on classroom management and pedagogical techniques.
In 2013, I founded and served as the director of the International Scholars Program at the school, comprised of a yearlong seminar on cultural interaction and a 10-day intensive study abroad trip–the first that had ever been done at the school–to Monteverde, Costa Rica, with 11 students. I designed the full study abroad program in Monteverde, planned the curriculum and taught the weekly academic seminar at our home campus, led and tracked individual and group fundraising efforts, arranged travel and documentation for the group, held bilingual monthly parent meetings, designated a co-chaperone, and served as Lead Facilitator on the trip.
In 2013, I spent 6 months in Koliganek, Alaska, a Yupik village of 200 people, as the secondary English Language Arts teacher for Koliganek School. I taught English Language Arts to grades 6 through 12 and implemented a reading growth assessment and tracking system for severely below-level middle schoolers.
In 2014, I arrived at the University of Texas at Austin as a PhD student in Comparative Literature. I served as a Teaching Assistant for two years (2014-2016) in the Department of Undergraduate Studies, where I led discussion sections and was responsible for grading for two writing-intensive courses: Modernity, Anxiety, and the Art of the Uncanny and Russian Sci-Fi in Literature and Film. I was asked to serve as Lead TA during the second year I worked with these courses, and managed logistics and facilitated collaborative teaching practices among a group of 8 TAs.
I then taught Spanish language as an Assistant Instructor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Texas at Austin from 2017-2019. These are rigorous 6-credit courses that stress linguistic, communicative, cultural, and metalinguistic competence. I have taught both SPN 601D (First-Year Spanish) and SPN 611D (Second-Year Spanish, a hybrid course with an online component).
In fall of 2019, I taught ESL to a diverse group of adult learners at HOFT Institute in Austin. My students ranged in age from 18 to 50+ and came from a variety of countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. I taught advanced Reading and intermediate Listening and Speaking. I also worked one-on-one and in small groups with high school and college students as well as professionals, providing Spanish, English, and SAT/GRE test prep tailored instruction.
Currently, I am working closely with a group of 11 undergraduate Plan II Honors students at the University of Texas at Austin. These students are serving as peer dialogue facilitators and mentors for incoming first-year students in Fall 2020, a uniquely challenging semester in which to begin college. I designed and led a 6-hour training on facilitating difficult dialogues and trauma-informed pedagogy in August 2020 and currently facilitate a biweekly learning community for the undergraduate peer mentors.