I began my teaching career at a very early age. I was only 17 when I began teaching at Berry College’s Writing Center, under the direction of Dr. Michael Cooley. There, I tutored fellow students, many of them non-native English-speakers, helping them to revise writing assignments for their courses and prepare for the writing exam that was a graduation requirement at the time. Later in my Berry career, I also occasionally had the opportunity to substitute for lower-level English courses in composition.
After graduation in 1996, I moved through life at break-neck speed from stalled careers in the Peace Corps and the Air Force, to careers as a ranch hand, tattoo artist, and small business owner, to parenthood, but I always returned periodically to my first love: teaching. During those years, I taught at private language companies such as Berlitz, Inc., as well as educational institutions like the Interactive College of Technology and the ESL institute at Tulane University. (See my CV for lists and descriptions of the classes I taught there.) Eventually, I entered the Georgia Teacher Alternative Preparation Program (TAPP), obtaining a Level 4 Conditional teaching certificate in Spanish in July of 2001, converting it to a Clear Renewable certificate in July of 2002, and adding ESOL certification in July of 2003 (see certificate). My current certificate is Level 7 (doctoral level) and renewed it until 2017.
After teaching high school Spanish at Callaway High School in Lagrange, Georgia for two years, I returned to school as a full-time graduate student at Georgia State, supporting myself with a teaching assistantship in the Intensive English Program. While at GSU, I earned the rare privilege of two class assignments rather than the usual one per semester, teaching a remedial reading course for the university in addition to my IEP course. During this period, I was also creating courses and teaching them several times a year at my local RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency), attempting to meet the needs of teachers and school nurses in my area who were desperate for basic Spanish linguistic and cultural knowledge so as to be better able to communicate with the growing population of non-English-speaking parents in the community.
From my Master’s program at GSU, I immediately moved on to the doctoral program at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. This move was truly a boon for my teaching experience, because at ASU I had the opportunity to teach quite a range of courses. Many graduate teaching associates in the field of communication earn their PhDs never having taught more than the basic speech course or small group communication, but because of the extensive teaching experience that I brought with me to the program I was immediately assigned courses more in line with my teaching and research interests, including both the introductory and upper level classes in intercultural communication (COM 263, taught three times in Fall 2004 and Spring 2005, and COM 463, taught four times in Spring 2006, Summer 2006, and Summer 2007), and an interdisciplinary course called Language, Culture, and Communication (COM 371, taught twice in Fall 2006 and Spring 2007).
I was also called upon to create quite a bit of curriculum at ASU. Many of the courses there, particularly those with several sections each semester, have course coordinators who choose textbooks and standardize course assignments. COM 263 and COM 463, the intercultural communication courses at ASU, are examples of those types of courses. However, all of the other courses I taught (for example COM 371 Language, Culture, and Communication), I built from the ground up. With special approval, outstanding graduate teaching associates in our department were granted an honor usually reserved for faculty: building special topics courses, usually after achieving candidacy, and usually based on their dissertation research. I have prepared and taught 3 such courses. The first of these, an upper-level experiential research methods course on Intercultural Ethnography, I taught Fall 2005. The second, Communicative Silences, an upper-level course that reviewed cross-disciplinary/cross-cultural literature on silence and engaged students in research on what silences mean in their own cultures, took place in Spring 2007. The third course I taught in Fall 2007; it was an upper-level reading and discussion seminar called Communicating Whiteness, and it asked students to critically examine the ways that they perform their cultural identities with regard to race and ethnicity.
After completing my PhD in the spring of 2008, I returned to Georgia for family reasons. Here, I taught Spanish and English as a Second Language again in the public school system and conducted several long-term research projects while waiting for a university position to open up in the local area. In 2010 I returned to Georgia State University as a Visiting Lecturer, and the following year I was hired as Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Applied Linguistics, where I have been teaching ever since.
At GSU, I teach a variety of courses related to intercultural communication, research methods and language pedagogy. Some examples include the graduate course AL 8330 Intercultural Communication and the award-winning undergraduate senior capstone course AL 4151 Communication across Cultures, as well as AL 3031 Language in Society, AL 2012 Languages of the World and AL 2231 Understanding Miscommunication. Over the past five years I have taught In my time at Georgia State I have also internationalized the undergraduate curriculum, developing two new faculty-led study abroad programs, three new international exchange programs, both local and international internship courses, and GSU’s first international co-operative education program.
In 2015, I returned to the ESL/EFL classroom as part of my Fulbright Teaching/Research Scholar Award, for which I spent eight months in Honduras. There, at an agricultural university called Zamorano, I taught a Global Seminar (a video-conference based course on global issues of sustainability, in conjunction with Cornell University, University of Melbourne, EARTH, Beijing Normal University, and other institutions around the world) and a Reading for Academic Research course.
In all, I have accumulated a rare wealth of classroom experiences, having taught a variety of subjects to students of all ages and many different nationalities and native languages. To conclude, I would like to note that not least among the experiences that have made me who I am as a teacher today are the experiences I have had as a student. I have studied languages in many different ways – hearing German spoken by my paternal grandmother as a child, formally studying Spanish in classrooms in high school and college, through immersion by living abroad in South Korea and southern Spain and most recently Honduras, engaging in language exchanges with fellow graduate students, and returning to the classroom again for 22 hours of Korean language coursework during my doctoral program. These studies have enriched my repertoire as a teacher and increased my empathy for students in ways that nothing else could have. Likewise, my extensive experience traveling domestically and abroad has taught me much about people (and myself), and I find this experience invaluable in dialogues and interactions with my students.