The NNEST Caucus Member of the Month
Could you please tell us a bit about yourself and your background (e.g. linguistic, academic, professional, …)?
I was born in Bahia , Brazil . I have a B.Sc in Chemistry and a master degree in TESOL. I left Brazil when I was 24 years old to live in China and Japan . I came to the U.S. at the age of 30, and currently, I live in California. I teach ESL at the City College of San Francisco and at Laney College. I love teaching grammar, pronunciation and composition to college students, and ESL using computers to immigrants (check http://www.ccsf.edu/Resources/TLTR/profiles/ana.htm).
My grand grandmother was one of the first teachers in her village. My mother and four of my aunts were instructors in Taiwan , and my father was a tutor for many years, so I grew up in an environment where we had a lot of respect for educators and books. My father used to praise how quiet the house was every time my sister and I got a new book or comic magazine. I always loved to learn languages and read about different cultures (I learned Portuguese, Mandarin, English, German and Japanese), but I realized I wanted to be an English teacher when I started teaching languages in Japan . Teaching overseas inspired me to come to the U.S. to pursue a master degree in TESOL.
What are your most vivid memories (positive/negative) of being a NNEST in your academic and/or professional practices?
Oh boy, I have so many!
I can tell a negative experience that turned out to be very rewarding at the end. It happened when I was working in a very reputable language school in Tokyo where each class had at most 5 students (We specialized in providing one-to-one classes). When new students wanted to have English conversation classes, the coordinator would give those students to a NS instructor. If a student needed to prepare for a TOEFL test, the Japanese national university entrance exam, or needed to improve his/her writing skills in order to succeed in an American university, the coordinator would assign that student to me.
One time when I was in the teachers room preparing my lessons, I heard two NS instructors laughing. One said, “Here is someone who actually prepares her lessons. All I do is get a newspaper and discuss an article. Next week, we will talk about Thanksgiving recipes and dinner ideas.” I was very offended and hurt; however, I didn’t feel less than any of them because I knew as a fact that a few of the NS instructors only had a high school diploma and that none of them had a degree in language. In my heart, I believed that some of them were not educators, but mere entertainers.
Today I am extremely thankful to my coordinator for giving me the most challenging students. Because of them, I have intensive experience answering grammar questions and dealing with very demanding students. I like to tell this story to my college students to show that we all have strengths and limitations, and that the best attitude is to keep faith in ourselves and use each challenge as a stepping stone for improvement and success.
How would you describe the most important contributions of non-native speaker professionals the L2 learning/teaching, and applied linguistics?
Without sounding arrogant, I have to say that the non-native English speaking educators are the truly role models of learning English successfully. I wish I could see more on paper researches on how NNSs successfully acquired a second language, how they faced the challenges, and how they became respected as language instructors.
How did you get to know about NNEST Caucus? What are the things (if any) you would like to see the Caucus and its members initiate/do?
As soon as I became member of TESOL and CATESOL, I did not hesitate in signing for the NNEST Caucus. I met the leaders in New York and in San Antonio, and I am very proud of the professionalism and comradeship I found among the members.
I would like to see more articles and discussions on NNEST issues not just confined to strategies of being employed or accepted in the professional community, but also in a larger context, co-related to other aspects of language teaching. We are not just NNESTs. Some are experts in teaching pronunciation or composition. Some of us coordinate programs and others teach in training programs. What are our contributions as NNESTs in these arenas? We can certainly offer a different perspective as we discuss language teaching issues.
Would you like to tell us a bit about your hobbies?
I write reviews of good restaurants in a website, and I made the commitment of only writing positive stuff. Writing is a good exercise because the process forces me to look for words that best describe flavor, fragrance, appearance and consistence. Besides food, I am also very interested in palmistry and tarot.
In your teaching experience, do you have any regrets?
Once I was the program director of a small school in the Silicon Valley . In that position, I had a lot of responsibilities: coordinating classes, developing curriculum, hiring staff, dealing with students and their parents, driving the school van, etc… I don’t regret accepting that job because it showed me the other side instructors do not see, but I realized that what I really love to do is to teach.