Penn State Program Offers ESL Teaching Experience in Ecuador
by Deborah Benedetti (May 2012)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - More than 42,000 Pennsylvania and 11.2 million U.S. public school children speak a language other than English at home, according to state and federal reports. To help these children learn English, teachers need specialized knowledge about learning a second language and a new culture.
Penn State's Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) Certificate Program with an Ecuador Immersion Experience can help by providing an accelerated education option for teachers and Penn State students.
"This program is designed to open a window to a very different world and, in the process, build a global perspective as well as cultural self-awareness," said Elizabeth Smolcic, assistant professor of education in Penn State's College of Education. "In our globalized world, being comfortable and knowledgeable about other cultures and languages is important, but in some rural areas, we need to seek out opportunities to learn about other cultures and find ways to study and practice another language."
Started in 2004, the five-course certificate is the only Penn State program offering a language immersion and teaching experience in another country. It runs from January to August and includes weekend classes at University Park campus, online classes and four weeks in Ecuador in June and July, with classes at the Universidad de Otavalo.
In Ecuador as part of a field teaching experience, participants work with Penn State faculty mentors to teach English to Ecuadorian youth. Participants study a second language and culture; observe, plan and implement ESL instruction; and gain experience working within a community of English learners. Approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, Penn State's program enables teachers to receive an ESL Program Specialist Certificate.
For Cathe Stock, the biggest benefits were "teaching English in Ecuador and living with a family whose members did not speak English. I got a lot of practice speaking Spanish." Stock, who has taught Spanish for 33 years — 13 in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the last 20 in Upper Darby School District — completed Penn State's program last year. When she retires, she would like to teach English language learners in her community.
Since 2009, program graduates have returned to Ecuador as volunteers each summer to teach rural youth in Camp English.
For information, visit the Teaching ESL Web site.