May 2012
ITAIS Newsletter

Leadership Updates

LETTER FROM THE CHAIR

Dear ITA colleagues,

As the ITAIS enters its 20th year as an interest section, I am honored to serve as your chair for 2012-13. I would like to thank all previous chairs and all the members of current and past steering committees who have contributed to making the ITAIS such a vibrant and valuable interest section. Our ITA members continuously create and contribute to our thriving and inviting professional community. Special thanks go out to Rebecca Oreto, our newsletter editor, for her outstanding efforts and to the many article contributors this year. I also extend gratitude and appreciation to our outgoing chair, Kathi Cennamo, and past chair, Keith Otto, for helping me ease through the transition from chair-elect. The depth and breadth of professional knowledge, the willingness to share, and the genuine caring of our group have always impressed me. I really appreciate our readiness to raise and research important issues and to cross-pollinate ideas—both on the off-TESOL ITA e-list and at conferences.

As we look back at the 46th Annual TESOL Convention in Philadelphia, we should congratulate our group for another successful conference. We hosted both research- and practice-oriented sessions including teaching tips and posters, discussions, a workshop, and our special sessions: an InterSection in collaboration with CALL and SPLIS and our Academic Session focusing on assessment, accreditation, and program review (see article by Cheryl Ernst in this newsletter). Our annual open meeting was well attended and provided an opportunity to get to know new members. We also discussed TESOL’s new application and training process for proposal readers and addressed how to reach out to new members via the TESOL Community as well as continue to connect via the off-TESOL ITA e-list. The meeting also provided an opportunity for the ITA group to brainstorm ideas for the Academic Session for the 2013 convention. Among those topics, ITA-related research, an ITA retrospective (past, present, and future), leveraging relationships across campus, and assessment issues seemed to carry the most significance. Thanks to Anne Politz for arranging the ITA social, for leading many of us on a lovely historical walk, and for choosing a restaurant with delicious and seemingly endless Chinese dishes. Thanks also to Barbara Wolfe Boockmeier for pulling the ITAIS booth together even in the midst of changing circumstances. And many, many thanks to all the presenters and proposal readers.

Because ITA sessions did overlap, and many of our ITA colleagues could not make the trek to Philadelphia, I am hoping that presenters will post their PowerPoint slides and/or handouts to the ITAIS TESOL Community. If you can also share them via the off-TESOL e-list we can all benefit from the presentations. I know that I came away from the convention with a multitude of ideas and excellent takeaways. I hope to see more of us online and in Dallas next year.

Speaking of Dallas—proposals for 2013 are due on June 1. The number of sessions that we get at the convention is still proportional to how many proposals we submit, so I encourage everyone to submit multiple proposals and to convince colleagues to also submit a few proposals. The rule is that only one person can be the primary presenter on a presentation but can assist with any number of other presentations.

Finally, I want to welcome all of our new members, thank all the volunteers who have offered to read proposals, and thank everyone in our group for their invaluable help.

LETTER FROM THE CHAIR-ELECT

Dear colleagues,

My name is Liz Wittner and I am the new chair-elect for the ITA Interest Section. I have been involved in TESOL for the past 25 years, but came to higher ed and ITA training about a dozen years ago. I find ITA work completely fascinating and engaging as it cuts across so many of my interests: oral English, pedagogy, and intercultural communication. I very much enjoy being with others who are captivated by this work as well, so it was great to see some of you at TESOL in Philadelphia last month. What an interesting and talented group of people we have in this IS! I look forward to meeting, or at least having written conversations with, those of you I haven’t yet met.

I am honored to be the chair-elect of the ITAIS. I hope to use the coming year to focus on learning leadership skills from our chair Kim Kenyon and past-chair Kathi Cennamo, as well as the many knowledgeable people who have put in so much time in building this IS. I also plan to pay close attention to the themes that arise in our IS so that we can pursue these in later Academic and InterSection sessions as well as online. Finally, I’m hoping to learn about ways we can draw in others who are involved in ITA programs and who could contribute so much to our dialogue on ITA issues. I look forward to working with all of you!

LETTER FROM THE PAST CHAIR

Dear esteemed colleagues,

It was a pleasure seeing many of you in Philadelphia. In the halls of the Convention Center and in “our room” in the Marriott, it was affirmed many times that indeed the ITA Interest Section is the best IS in TESOL. We are really nice, smart, collegial, and creative; and not only do we know how to teach ITAs well, but we also know how to party at a Chinese restaurant! I really did have fun at our social and also learned valuable information that I could bring back to Ohio State. For those of you who were not able to go to Philly, I hope that soon we will be able to see the webcast of our InterSection with CALL and SPLIS and also see copies of PowerPoint slides from our presentations on the Community site at TESOL.org. It appears that the more information we upload to that site, the more people will understand what exactly an international teaching assistant really is and what we do.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for entrusting me with the position of chair this past year. Though it was a difficult year for me personally, I always felt the ITA community had my back. You supported me within TESOL and in the profession itself. Thank you again. It was truly an honor to serve you.

GREETINGS FROM YOUR ITA WEBMASTER AND COMMUNITY MANAGER

I hope by now you have all logged in the TESOL Community and posted a profile pic, a bio, or your conference materials. At the moment, there are 600-plus people signed on to the ITAIS Community. However, I think many of them just checked the box to join but don’t remember they did so because there is little to no traffic on the ITAIS part of the site.

Our main goal in encouraging members like you to sign on is so that we can “test drive” the Community to decide whether to start using TESOL’s e-list and/or web space. I’ll have an article in the next newsletter, but for now, I just want to nudge you all to log on and at least post your handouts, slides, and other materials from your sessions in Philadelphia. Those of you who could not attend: Please log on and view these materials and ask questions of the presenters. We would like to have more of an “on-TESOL” presence (on the TESOL site), and soon we will need your input on what to do about our off-TESOL e-list and web space.

Write me at diane.cotsonas@utah.edu with any questions or concerns and I will forward them to our fearless leaders! Thanks!

ARTICLES

ITA PROGRAMS AND ACCREDITATION AS PROGRAM REVIEW

As a single-person ITA program housed in an intensive English program, I never gave program evaluation or student outcomes much consideration. In addition to teaching the ITA class, I always had ESL classes to teach and administrative roles to maintain. Our ITA class was a single class that was offered as a service to the university. We offered this class and participated in initial ITA testing of students and offered a one-day sampler orientation. Over the course of a year, I would spend perhaps 125 hours total on the ITA program.

The idea of program evaluation did not cross my mind. Students would complete an end-of-term evaluation of themselves, the class, and the instructor. But that evaluation did not tell me anything about the program. The class was adaptable to what the students needed (and to some extent wanted) and nothing was written about the course except a syllabus.

When our Center for English as a Second Language (CESL) decided to apply for accreditation, we had to finally take a serious look at our ITA program and decide how it fit into the CESL and Linguistics, where it is housed at Southern Illinois University (SIU). We are a small operation and we receive little funding from the SIU Graduate School. The program was my baby: a rewarding project I worked on in addition to all of my other duties. Though I did work closely with the Center for Graduate Teaching Excellence (also housed in the Graduate School), there was no place for the ITA testing and training other than in a binder in my office, and very few people in the program knew anything about it. When we applied for accreditation by the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA), that positioning finally changed. With our program review, the ITA portion of CESL now has a home.

SIU has an ITA program primarily because of an Illinois state bill that says that universities must “establish a program to assess the oral English language proficiency of all persons providing classroom instruction . . . , and to ensure that each person who is not orally proficient in the English language attain such proficiency prior to providing any classroom instruction to students” (State of Illinois, Senate Bill 1516, emphasis added). The law, however, includes no guidelines regarding the testing or any program review to ensure effectiveness.

We can see the relevance for testing and training in various documents such as the SIU Graduate Student Handbook and the SIU Graduate Assistants (GA) United contract. The handbook notes that

Every non-native English speaker assigned a graduate assistantship with teaching duties must pass an examination of oral English skill before undertaking classroom duties. A representative of the appointing department and of the Graduate School must participate in the examination. (SIU, 2011, emphasis added)

And from the GA United contract:

A TA for whom English is not the native/first language must obtain a certification of proficiency in oral communication in English before the TA may begin providing teaching/instructional services. . . . The University shall provide a training program for English proficiency. (SIU, 2012, emphasis added)

The GA United contract is the first document to reference training, in addition to testing. Each of these three documents mentions the importance of and need for ITA testing, and the university elects (wisely) to offer training for those who are marginal in their oral language, but there has never been a place for program evaluation. The ITA test is a high-stakes test as are the repercussions of the training that is provided; program evaluation should be inherent.

When CESL decided to undergo CEA accreditation, we researched the benefits of accreditation, which is a means of guaranteeing and improving quality by demonstrating accountability. Eaton (2003) identified four pivotal roles of accreditation:

  • Sustains and enhances the quality of higher education and requires that institutions (or programs) actively seek improvements.
  • Maintains academic values of higher education and allows for diverse and independent programs to meet the needs of a range of students.
  • Is a buffer against the politicizing of higher education and protects programs.
  • Serves public interest and need by providing a means of educating the public.

Specifically, per CEA (2010) accreditation, “The program or institution can gauge its effectiveness against benchmarks set by the profession. Through the on-going annual reporting and reaccreditation process, programs and institutions continue their commitment to higher quality.” At the time of CESL’s accreditation, CEA had 52 standards (starting this year [see CEA, 2012], those 52 standards were rewritten and reorganized into 44 standards). Though most of the 52 standards did not really apply to the SIU ITA program, 12 of the standards did: the mission, faculty, curriculum, student achievement, and program planning, development, and review sections. In summary, we discovered that the ITA program was just an extra class and extra testing; we had no documented curriculum for the class, no formal evaluation, and, most important, no process for regular review.

The first standard CESL had to address was the mission standard. CEA requires programs to have a standard that is written and communicated. CESL had no mission. After long deliberation, CESL formulated a mission statement that includes ITAs on campus (only the ITA portion is included):

The Center for English as a Second Language serves international students enrolled in CESL or in Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC), its departments, and the region. Our primary mission is to provide the highest quality English language program and curriculum, delivered by professionals in the field of ESL. We aim to:

  • Provide advanced language training, culture, and pedagogy for international graduate assistants. (CESL Mission Statement, 2009)

As part of the self-study, we had to provide examples of how we gauge our success in meeting our goals. We can document meeting our goals in this standard by

  • Coordinating fall pre-semester orientation and testing
  • Coordinating and participating in ITA testing
  • Observing new ITAs
  • Teaching an ITA workshop
  • Teaching an ITA accent reduction class

The next section of the standards, curriculum, was interesting because we had never written our ITA workshop curriculum. We had a syllabus, but that was all. There are three standards (of four) relevant to our ITA program. The first is that the program has a written curriculum that meets the goals set in the mission. The second is a series of course goals, objectives, and learner outcomes that align with the curriculum. The final standard looks at instructional materials and methodologies and how they support the objectives and goals of the class. This last standard is a challenge because our texts are so dated. Very few new texts for ITA classes have been written in the past 15 years, though within the past three years, two new texts have been published. Overall our core materials date from the 1990s.

There are seven faculty standards, of which three are relevant to our ITA program. The first ensures proper education and training for faculty assignments. In CESL, all faculty have a minimum of a master of arts in TESOL or a related field. The second standard requires experience that is relevant to faculty teaching assignments and a commitment to professional development. I am professionally active, and my replacement coordinator is newly involved in the ITA interest section. The final standard, a requirement of demonstrated English proficiency, is a bit ironic for our interest section. The new ITA coordinator is a nonnative speaker of English and she had to have her English certified, per state law.

Of the four student achievement standards, three apply to our ITA program. These standards relate to placement, progress, and assessment. Thanks to the state bill, we had already developed a process for placing students into our class. Our promotion policy was a bit unnecessary, as we have only one level of the class, but this standard also includes completion of programs, with which we were compliant. The final standard addresses how students are informed of placement, completion of the program, and results of their participation.

The program planning development and review section contains two standards, both of which are relevant to CESL. These two standards state that CESL must have a plan in writing for planning, implementation, and evaluation of the program as well as a review of curriculum and student achievement. CESL now includes ITA testing and training as part of its regular program review.

Using accreditation as a program evaluation may be unusual in ITA circles, but we found it very helpful. The ITA program has a home and a place in our regular review. Our curriculum is now documented and available for regular review. It has a place in the CESL mission and no longer is merely an add-on.

REFERENCES

Center for English as a Second Language. (2009). Mission Statement. Retrieved from http://www.cesl.siu.edu/index.html.

Commission on English Language Program Evaluation. (2010). Accreditation overview. Retrieved from http://www.cea-accredit.org/accreditation.html

Commission on English Language Program Evaluation. (2012). Standards. Retrieved from http://www.cea-accredit.org/about-cea/standards.html

Eaton, J. (2003, May). Value of accreditation: Four pivotal roles. Council for Higher Education Accreditation Letter From the President. Retrieved from http://www.chea.org/pdf/pres_ltr_value_accrd_5-03.pdf

Southern Illinois University. (2011). Graduate student handbook. Retrieved from http://gradschool.siu.edu/catalog_11-12.html

Southern Illinois University. (2012). GA United contract. Retrieved from http://gradschool.siu.edu/GAU_2010-14.pdf


Cheryl Ernst earned her PhD from Southern Illinois University and her MA-TESOL from Northern Arizona University. Her professional areas of interest include teacher training, working with the international teaching assistant population, and academic English.

ROUNDTABLES: TURNING CONVERSATION HOURS INTO CULTURAL SPEED DATING

In the past, our ITA program has had varying levels of success using conversation partners and conversation hours as an opportunity for our students to practice their speaking and listening skills. For example, we recruited members of the university’s retirees’ association and found retired faculty provided excellent conversation partners. The students paired with them felt the depth and breadth of their conversations really helped them improve both speaking and listening. However, despite efforts over several semesters, it was difficult to recruit more than a few volunteers each semester.

We have had more luck recruiting undergraduates from programs such as International Studies, but if the chemistry is not right between the conversation partners or if the semester gets busy, they often stop meeting after the first or second time.

When we used conversation hours, we generally had more internationals than native speakers. When they clumped together in groups, usually one international took on most of the conversation responsibilities while more passive students might not have been actively involved.

Of course, the final problem was what to talk about. The retired faculty enjoyed discussing research, teaching, and the American classroom, but it was much more rare for undergraduates to go beyond conversational basics.

In the past year and a half, we have started using a new model that we call roundtables. For a typical roundtable we recruit 6 to 12 volunteers from a campus organization to come and speak about their organization’s specialty. We divide the volunteers into six or more stations, each with a slightly different focus. When our students arrive, they spend 7 to 10 minutes at one station and then rotate to the next.

For example, volunteers from the university’s undergraduate student government formed eight stations. We suggested topics to them in advance, but they had input as well. The volunteers were able to pick a topic that they were interested in and knowledgeable about. Topics included fraternities and sororities, dating, homecoming, and tailgating.

The conversations are usually quite lively―much more so than those we had previously in conversation hours. I believe this is because the volunteers are experts and have a lot to say on their topic in a short period. Instead of searching for answers, volunteers respond to our students’ questions enthusiastically. On the flip side, our students get a lot of cultural information from volunteers who have thought a great deal about the topic.

One of my favorite roundtables occurred when undergraduates with disabilities shared their experiences. Each volunteer talked about his or her disability and the modifications and resources needed to be successful in the classroom. Several of our students left saying they felt inspired by the people they had met.

We invited Black undergraduate students to share as well. Their dialogue was extremely candid. They shared general information as well as their specific experiences with overt and subtler acts of racism. They explained the events and the significance of an upsetting event on campus now termed the “cotton ball incident.” Although it occurred in 2010, this event has shaped much of the dialogue about racism and discrimination on our campus.

In addition to cultural learning opportunities, we teamed with undergraduates from the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) and used the same roundtable format to run three pronunciation workshops: a vowel workshop, a consonant workshop, and consonant cluster workshop.

NSSHLA volunteers have been especially enthusiastic. Most had never worked with adults or in the field of accent modification, so the roundtables have been excellent confidence builders for them and have opened them up to a field they had not really considered before.

The roundtable program does require more administrative work throughout the semester compared to a conversation hour or conversation partner program. In order for undergraduate leaders to round up their volunteers, we have occasionally had to postpone a workshop. Also, some student organizations have been unresponsive. The key seems to be finding good undergraduate student leaders―whether or not they belong to a student organization―and cultivating relationships with them. Though it takes time and effort, the program is definitely worthwhile in light of the quality of cultural information received and the attitude of both the volunteers and our international students.


Liz Tummons is the ITA Program Coordinator at the University of Missouri. Because of her K-12 background and her interest in math and sciences, she is generally curious about a lot of things.

PODCASTING MICROTEACHING PRESENTATIONS

As could be seen at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia, using technology and self-reflection in international teaching assistant (ITA) training and assessment is popular nationwide. At the University of Georgia (UGA), we use podcasting to record and share our ITA microteaching presentations. This article describes how to podcast and discusses the benefits of podcasting. I begin by describing our ITA program before moving to the methods for collecting and uploading ITA microteaching presentations in podcasts. I touch upon the evaluation of podcasts then conclude with comments on the benefits and adaptability of this methodology.

To begin, the UGA ITA program is a two-semester program composed of a one-semester pronunciation seminar and a one-semester teaching seminar. ITAs are placed in the program based on their TOEFL iBT scores. Students scoring below 24 on the speaking section must take both courses; students scoring 24 or 25 on the speaking section are required to take only the teaching seminar. In each course, students deliver three 10- to 12-minute microteaching presentations, which are recorded, podcasted, and used as objects for reflection, focused feedback, and assessment. Students are encouraged to present material from their field or from the course that they will teach and to use PowerPoint, SmartBoards, dry erase boards, and any other presentation materials they use in their own teaching in hopes of making the microteaching more teaching than presentation.

MATERIALS AND METHOD FOR PODCASTING MICROTEACHING PRESENTATIONS

Materials and In-Class Procedure

Most ITAs take to PowerPoint quickly because they are already familiar with using the application. Though often a beneficial teaching supplement, projection screen images are challenging to capture on video due to lighting and the position of the screen in relation to the ITA. A freeware application, ScreenFlow, resolves this by including a screen shot of what the ITA is presenting in a split-screen video. Using the program requires a computer in the classroom; at UGA, we have a podcast cart (see Figure 1), which contains a rotating mounted digital camcorder, a Mac computer with ScreenFlow, and a wireless microphone running through a preamp into the Mac. Though it sounds and looks burdensome, using these tools together is simple and convenient. They are already assembled, on wheels, and need only to be plugged in. Before class, I start the computer and make sure the Internet browser is operating. Students then copy their PowerPoint presentations from a flash drive or e-mail to the computer’s desktop.


Figure 1. The Podcast Cart in the College of Education at UGA
Photo credit: Stephen Looney

Once all the presentations are on the desktop, I start recording in ScreenFlow, which captures video from the external camera and the desktop of the computer in a single split-screen file. ScreenFlow also allows users to upload podcasts in real time directly to a podcast channel. I do not use this feature because it opens users up to pitfalls like a failed Internet connection and requires the instructor to stop and restart recording of presentations. I actually leave ScreenFlow running continuously until the last presenter in a session has presented; I clip out unwanted video between presentations later. As each student presents, I have his or her PowerPoint slide show open on the desktop. This requires me to click through the presentation on the desktop as the student gives his or her presentation while also operating the camera. This becomes simple with minimal practice. After the last presenter has presented, I stop recording in ScreenFlow and save the file to the computer’s desktop. Now, all the ITA presentations for the day are in one file waiting to be edited and clipped into individual .mov files.

Out-of-Class Procedure

Because I do not directly upload student presentations to the podcast channel, I must upload the presentations and share the links after class. First, I edit and export the files. When I say “edit,” I mean adjust the split screen. The default setting for ScreenFlow is the live video in a small picture-within-a-picture format and the screen shot is the larger frame. The user can adjust the size and position of the two frames by clicking on the frame and using the drag boxes outlining the frame. I typically have the two frames side-by-side with the screen shot on the same side of the presenter as the projector screen is in the room. Once the split screen has been adjusted for the first presentation, it is adjusted for all the presentations in that file. I then mark the in and out points for the first presentation using the Edit menu and export the selection to the desktop using the File menu. I repeat this process of marking in and out points then exporting for each presentation in the file. The files can be quickly uploaded from the desktop to a podcasting channel that you create and might even be available at your university. Finally, I copy the links for the podcasts from the podcast channel page and paste them into a document and spreadsheet labeled with the ITAs’ names. Now, the podcasts are easy to share with students, departmental graduate coordinators, and administrators across campus. A sample excerpt from a sample spreadsheet is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Sample Excerpt From Podcast-Sharing Form

Semester

Student Name

Department

Course

Podcast Link

Sp 2012

Kim, Jaeyoung

Physical Ed.

7769

1. www.podcastlink.com

Sp 2012



7769

2. www.podcastlink2.com

Sp 2012



7769

3. www.podcastlink3.com

Immediately after podcasts have been uploaded, I share the links with the students so they may complete a self-reflection. In addition, each ITA receives an evaluation with focused feedback from the teacher. All reflection and evaluation is based on the same rubric. For the final presentation, two graders evaluate each final, average the two scores for each final, and provide feedback. The final evaluation determines the student’s ability to advance in or exit the course sequence. Each department receives a formal letter prepared by the ITA program with specific comments and suggestions regarding an ITA’s pronunciation and preparedness to teach or conduct office hour sessions at the university.

BENEFITS AND ADAPTABILITY

Benefits

Podcasting ITA microteaching presentations has proven beneficial for storing and sharing files between administrators, graduate coordinators, teachers, and students. This was the original motivation for podcasting at UGA. As anyone who works with high-definition (HD) video files knows, they are gargantuan and inconvenient to share. Podcasting resolves this problem by allowing students, teachers, and administrators to access presentations by clicking on a link in a document or spreadsheet. Using these links, individual departments can quickly view their students’ microteaching presentations and compare them to the written evaluations and recommendations the ITA program prepared for each ITA’s department at the end of each semester. Podcasting and storing the podcast links in a spreadsheet also gives microteaching presentations a permanence that doesn’t take up gigabytes of space on a hard drive and allows students and teachers to access microteaching presentations and compare an ITA’s pronunciation and presentation skills over a one- or two-semester period. One of the simplest and unforeseen but most useful benefits of podcasting is the time scroll bar at the bottom of the podcast. This feature makes it easy for teachers to provide specific feedback and students to pinpoint their own difficulties in written reflections and evaluations. Or in my teaching cohort’s case, it helps when meeting with students individually to look at the podcasts and to give focused feedback on presentation and teaching skills without sitting through entire presentations. This is another unanticipated but practical benefit of using podcasts: flexibility.

Adaptability

Most of what I have described is my own procedure within the framework that I am provided with by my superiors. At any time, there are two ITA program instructors at UGA. My current colleague, Daniel Gilhooly, is also required to use podcasting and has developed his own similar methodology. He edits and exports his microteaching files using iMovie and records his ITA presentations with a camcorder and tripod only. He prefers not using a split screen and feels like the camera and tripod are easier to manage inside and outside the classroom than is the podcast cart. I admit, mobility is an issue with the podcast cart; it is practical for use in only one building with elevators. Simply using a camcorder and tripod frees the recorder to travel anywhere on campus. An added plus is that using a camcorder and tripod does not necessarily exclude the use of ScreenFlow for those looking to skip the step of moving the video files from the camcorder to the computer for uploading, or for those looking to podcast directly in real time. ScreenFlow can be downloaded and used on laptops too. Just make sure that you have the appropriate wires for connecting your camcorder to the laptop.

In conclusion, this methodology is not only for the ITA training classroom. The university-wide TA training program at UGA recently adopted and adapted our podcasting methodology for their purposes. Podcasting could even be a tool to use for reflection on one’s own teaching.


Stephen Looney is a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia. In addition to ITA preparation, Stephen is interested in conversation analysis and second language acquisition.

Meet an ITA Member

MEET THE MEMBER: ELIZABETH GILLSTROM

Hi, Elizabeth. Thanks for talking with us. Can we start with just a brief bio?

Sure. I was born and raised in a small suburban town in West Michigan. I’m a first generation learner, so when it came to picking a college, I had no idea where to start! Something about Kalamazoo College’s study abroad program seemed intriguing to me, so I signed up. I had the opportunity to work and study in Kolkata, India through the International Partnership for Service Learning. That’s where I had my first TESOL experience: teaching with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. After graduating, I moved to Philadelphia and served with City Year, which is kind of like a domestic version of the Peace Corps. I worked in a bilingual elementary school in North Philadelphia as a pull-out literacy instructor. Then I bounced back to west Michigan for a while where I worked as an IELTS administrator at Grand Valley State University. I relocated to Philly again to get my master’s in TESOL at the University of Pennsylvania. While studying full-time, I worked several part-time jobs including rating for ETS, briefly teaching at Drexel University’s English Language Center, and instructing in the University of Pennsylvania’s English Language Program. Upon graduating, I was offered the position as ITA coordinator, and I haven’t looked back since! I live in West Philly with my fiancé and our dog, Lucy, and I have a one-mile walking commute to work every day.


How did you get your start in the TESOL field?

As I briefly mentioned before, it all started in India when I was 20 years old. Then every job after that seemed to be ESL related, whether I was working in a public school, at a private business, or at a university. I always tell myself, “Everything happens for a reason,” so I decided to pursue my TESOL degree after pausing and taking stock of the patterns in my life. I remember the watershed moment: I went straight into a desk job after working in the Philly public school system, and I hated the sudden decrease in activity. There is something about teaching and being kept on my toes (figuratively and literally!) that gives me a sense of fulfillment. And there is nothing quite like an ITA program to keep a teacher on her toes.


Would you give us a quick overview of your interests?

Everything―I’m still new enough that it all seems fascinating. Of course language assessment is a primary interest; my presentation at this past TESOL convention was related to effective oral assessment via BlackBoard for classroom-based teachers. Next, I’m about to embark on a rater-training project for our ITA program, so wish me luck. Besides assessment, I’m also interested in classroom discourse and interaction, teacher training, and pronunciation instruction.


Do you have a favorite ITA-related story from your research or teaching experiences?

There are so many good experiences. The one that never gets old is the pride our ITAs feel after completing our training program. We always ask alumni to speak at our new student orientation, and so many past participants are eager to volunteer to stand up and speak about their experiences in a clear and concise way. It’s a true manifestation of the effective combination of a good training program and a hard-working student.


Was there something from the TESOL convention in Philadelphia that you'd like to share, that you thought was particularly valuable?

I didn’t get to see enough! I thought living in the same city where the convention was held was going to be great; I was avoiding airports and train stations, and would still be home in time to walk my dog every night. However, I was also teaching at Penn, which meant a lot of shuttling back and forth between the convention center and the university, and I completely underestimated how much I was going to be missing out on. Fortunately, I caught two great back-to-back presentations about utilizing undergrads in ITA programs. That initiative is on deck after my rater-training project.


Is there anything you’d like readers to know about you that I haven’t asked about yet?

Nope!

About This Community

WHAT IS THE ITAIS?

Statement of Purpose/Goals

The International Teaching Assistants Interest Section (ITAIS) serves TESOL members who work with nonnative-English-speaking teaching assistants as researchers, teachers, and program administrators.

History

ITAIS was first established with interim status at TESOL '92 and subsequently granted full status in October 1993.

The formation of ITAIS recognizes the contribution ITA specialists make to TESOL through service to the profession and to the organization. For over a decade prior to the founding of ITAIS, ITA issues had been the topic of preconvention institutes, papers, and workshops at TESOL meetings, but not all specialists, especially newcomers, had a reliable means of networking or contributing to or learning from these discussions on ITA concerns.

The ITAIS makes it possible for ITA TESOL members to meet one another; share concerns, research, and ideas; and develop a strong basis for research on and pedagogy for ITAs. The IS selects sessions and sponsors a range of conference activities: a preconvention institute, Academic Sessions, and Discussion Groups. ITAIS also aims to explore how the insights and experience of its members can be shared with members of ISs with common concerns, thus more broadly benefiting TESOL.

All information is taken from ITAIS web site.