Twenty-eight alumni from three Department of State high-school exchange programs are eager to return to their home countries to teach English in their communities. These students from 16 countries came to the United States last summer to attend American high schools for an academic year while living with host families from across the United States as part of the American Serbia and Montenegro (A-SMYLE), Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX), and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs. They were selected through a competitive process to participate in a one-week English teacher training workshop held in Washington, D.C., April 14-20. This is the first of three such workshops to be held through 2015.
Through presentations, peer teaching activities, and observation of local English as a second language (ESL) classrooms for youth and adults, participants learned classroom management and leadership skills. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' (ECA) Office of English Language Programs conducted sessions on English-teaching basics, student-centered teaching methods, and integrating technology into the classroom. They also introduced students to resources and materials to use in their teaching, such as the Trace Effects 3D video game and the award winning American English website. Feeds through Facebook, Twitter, and blogging platforms promoted and amplified the workshop. Alumni of the workshop will become part of a corps of "non-professional English language volunteers" that ECA seeks to build, and they will be connected with Regional English Language Officers for advice and mentoring. Workshop alumni will also have the opportunity to work with students in the English Access Microscholarship program, which provides a foundation of English language skills to talented youth from economically disadvantaged sectors.
The students were grateful for the experience to meet and work with peers from so many countries, and the knowledge, skills, and confidence they gained. They were also unanimously surprised at how challenging teaching is and developed a new-found appreciation for their teachers. They all have action plans for when they return home and are committed to bringing back the American volunteer spirit to their countries. Mishal from Pakistan already has students waiting for her in her father's native village, and says she's "inspired to share the treasure of English" and make a difference.