September 8, 2014
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Larisa Olesova, Past President; Yakut TESOL, Elizabeth Smith, President, Jayme Lynch, Past President & Jey Venkatesan, Publications Copy Coordinator; TexTESOL V

Larisa Olesova

Elizabeth Smith

Jayme Lynch

Jey Venkatesan

Donald Weasenforth and Larisa Olesova signed Partnership Agreement

In July 2008 two affiliates TexTESOLV and Yakut TESOL signed a partnership agreement in the city of Yakutsk in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The Past President of TexTESOLV Donald Weasenforth and Past President of Yakut TESOL Larisa Olesova initiated the partnership relationship between the two affiliates to promote teacher professional development and student exchanges between the two countries.

Since 2008, the two affiliates have completed projects including:

  • Teacher professional development in Yakutsk, 2008 and 2010
  • Online classroom collaborations, 2008 and 2009
  • English Summer Camps, 2009, 2010, and 2011
  • Book donation, 2009
  • Student exchange, 2010
  • Teacher exchange, 2011
  • English summer courses, 2011 and 2014

The two affiliates presented their collaboration at theTESOL 2014 Affiliates Colloquium. Below, we present the projects completed in 200 and 2011.

Elizabeth Smith, Director of Global Education and English to Speakers of Other Languages, the Hockaday School (Dallas, Texas, USA)

Teacher Professional Development in Yakutsk
My work with Yakut TESOL began with a web-based collaborative project designed to increase the English language proficiency of my class and the class in Yakutsk, deepen the sociocultural knowledge of all the students, and strengthen the collaborative skills among the students and among the Yakutian teachers and me.

English Summer Camps
At the end of the project, Yakut TESOL invited me to teach English at a summer camp in Yakutsk to which I traveled with my husband and two daughters (ages 10 and 12 at the time). I learned that online collaborative work presents many opportunities for creative and communicative growth: from designing ground-breaking curriculum to understanding technological aspects such as band-width. Additionally, I learned about the history, culture, and language of a remote part of the world where I developed meaningful relationships with many new colleagues.

The benefits of my collaborative work with Yakut TESOL were life-changing; I became a stronger teacher, colleague, and citizen of the world. Upon my return from Yakutsk, I was so inspired that I wanted everyone on the TexTESOL V board to share my experience, and I am thrilled that several of my colleagues have now worked with Yakut TESOL, either with online collaborative projects or by travel to Yakutsk to teach and learn. I believe in the value of global collaborative projects, and I continue to work with colleagues from both Yakut TESOL and TexTESOL V to present at TESOL conferences about our work and experiences.

                                 Elizabeth Smith in Yakutsk, 2009

Luda Grigoryeva, the Hockaday School (Dallas, Texas, USA) (reprinted from Yakut TESOL Newsletter 2011 with permission)

Student Exchange: Yakutsk to Texas
In the summer of 2009, an ESOL teacher from the Hockaday School came to my hometown, Yakutsk, with her family to teach some English classes. One year later we got her invitation to enroll in the Hockaday summer camp program. That was an amazing opportunity for me and 8 other girls who went with me. We surely had so much fun in Texas! There, I met Mrs. Smith again, and she told me I could try to get into Hockaday. I went on the Hockaday website and filled out all the application forms. Later, I took two required exams: TOEFL and ISEE. I’ve never got my scores, but one day I opened my email and I got a letter from Hockaday Admissions: I was accepted! On August 11th I was on my way to America. Currently, I’m a freshman (9th grader) at the Hockaday School. Studying here is fun but requires hard work and patience. My experience in this school has been really good so far. I’m taking freshman classes like English I, World History, Physics, and ESL (for international students), and an advanced math class, Algebra II. Classes here are a little bit different: 9th graders don’t have to take biology or chemistry until 10th grade, and geometry counts as 1-year course (in Russia geometry is a 5-year course). Teachers have more expectations, and you have to work hard to get good grades. Academics are great! Also, we use laptops to do homework and school stuff. Hockaday also offers great Fine Arts: Studio Art, Ceramics, Drama Theater, Photography, Vibrato Magazine, Journalism and Mass Technology, etc. I’m taking a drama class. There are also good sports and awesome varsity teams! I was on the varsity swimming team during the winter sports season. Hockaday is amazing! Just study and get accepted!

              Luda is in Dallas

Jayme Lynch, ESL teacher, Plano ISD (Dallas, Texas, USA)

Teacher Exchange: Texas to Yakutsk
My name is Jayme Lynch, and I had the opportunity to visit Maya Village in Yakutsk, Russia a few years ago. I was with a group of energetic, eager-to-learn students who had the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. I learned as much from them as I hope they learned from me. Our classes throughout each day practiced using the English language through experience. Here are a few things I brought over to get the students speaking: play-doh, visa-vis markers and writing/drawing pockets, peanut butter & jelly (how to make sandwiches), magazines with pop culture articles, music, and a few games (like Jenga).

The students loved exploring and were growing in their English with the practice. They weren’t perfect, but I never expected them to be; I just wanted them to begin speaking and using the language. They enjoyed putting on plays for which they made all the props and costumes. They also were thrilled to show me their culture and try and teach me their language, which I was not great at, but they got plenty of laughs listening to my pronunciation. I miss my time with my students and will never forget my experiences with them.

                         Jayme Lynch is in Maya (Yakutsk), 2010

Jey Venkatesan, Collin College (Dallas, Texas, USA)

Teacher Exchange: Texas to Yakutsk
As part of the TexTESOL V-Yakut partnership, I was invited to Yakutsk, Russia, in May 2011 to help enhance the English conversational ability of university students and local professionals, a total of 14 students. I was given a schedule and specific topics, including American holidays, work, leisure, education, films, health. Through discussion, comparison/contrast, and playing games, the students were given opportunities to converse in English. The speaking/listening classes led naturally to exploring American idioms and their usage. The students’ indomitable eagerness also propelled me to teach basic paragraph writing, which steered toward a project of designing a book consisting of stories on topics including their dreams, travels, favorite traditional stories, hobbies, recipes, and so on. I have proudly displayed their books at TexTESOL V conferences.

The 2-week program finished with a bang when students cooked their favorite dishes and shared them with classmates; they also shared the recipes and the process of making the dishes. It was an ultimate test of their speaking ability, and they came out successfully. During my free time, I was given the opportunity to visit all sorts of museums and interesting places. My most memorable trip was to the Permafrost Museum, the abode of ice sculptures! Over all, my trip to Yakutsk gave me the most adventurous, memorable experience a language teacher could ever ask for.

                              Jey Venkatesan is in Yakutsk, 2011

Evgeniya Yadrikhinskaya, North-Eastern Federal University (Yakutsk, Russia) (reprinted from Yakut TESOL Newsletter 2011 with permission):

Teacher Exchange: Yakutsk to Texas
In 2011 I had a great chance to visit the USA! It was possible due to the agreement of Partnership signed between Yakut TESOL and Tex TESOLV. To begin with, it was my first visit to the USA and any English-speaking country! So, I had to know the country, the people and the language as much as possible. I had a very busy agenda. Every day I visited ESL/ EFL classes at Collin County College, Richland College and the Hockaday School. I observed Mary Peacock’s Reading class, Nancy Megarity’s Writing class, Shirley Terrell and Jey Venkatesan’s Grammar classes.

Another thing I had never done before was teaching Russian as a second language. I worked with Dulce DeCastro, the Russian instructor at Collin College. Dulce and I recorded audio and videos in Russian. I will always remember the Russian class about Eastern Russia. I gave a presentation about our republic and I played the khomus. I wish you could see the students’ faces! I also had a great opportunity to take part in the Second Annual Study Skills Conference at Collin College and the Tex TESOL V Fall Conference “Staying Ahead of the Curve” which was on October 1, 2011 at North Lake College, Irving, Texas. Don Weasenforth, Jey Venkatesan, Elizabeth Smith, Jayme Lynch and I presented a report on the TexTESOL V-Yakut TESOL Partnership. As for cultural experience, my Tex-friends did not let me feel bored. We visited the 6th Floor Museum, the Cowtown Opry and, of course, a rodeo! I want to express the feeling of gratitude for those who made my dream came true: to all the members of the Yakut TESOL Board and our Tex TESOL V partners: Donald Weasenforth and Jey Venkatesan.

  Evgeniya Yadrikhinskaya is in Dallas, TX, 2011 with Elizabeth Smith

The two affiliates plan to continue on-site and online collaborations to promote teacher professional development and student exchanges between the two countries in the future.

Larisa Olesova is an instructional designer at George Mason University. Currently, she serves as the TESOL International Affiliate Leadership Council chair and as a moderator of “ICT4ELT,” one of the Electronic Village Online sessions at the TESOL annual convention. She is the past president of Yakut TESOL.

Elizabeth Ostrow Smith
is the director of Global Education and English to Speakers of Other Languages at The Hockaday School. She previously taught ESOL at Richland College and SMU, and she taught English in Yakutsk, Russia in 2009. She currently serves as the president of TexTESOL V.

Jayme Lynch is past president of TexTESOL V. A few relevant facts about Jayme are that she is an elementary ESL specialist for Plano ISD. She has been teaching for 11 years, 10 of which have been in Plano. She has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of North Texas, where she specialized in ESL.

Jey Venkatesan is an ESL professor, currently teaching at Collin College, Plano, Texas. She has been serving on TexTESOL V Board as a copy coordinator for many years and is also one of the reviewers and editors for TexELT Online Journal.

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