Monthly Archives: February 2012

Elis Lee

NNEST of the Month

March 2012

elis100 [at] hotmail [dot] com

Elis Lee has been teaching at Glendale Community College since 1998. She received a B.A. in English from UCLA and an M.A. in TESOL from Cal State University, Los Angeles. She has written articles for TESOL MattersCATESOL Journal, and the NNEST Newsletter. Elis has presented at TESOL, CATESOL, and Regional CATESOL conferences. In addition, she was the coordinator of the NNLEI Interest Group from 1999 to 2001.

NNEST March Interviewer: Davi S. Reis

Many thanks to my colleague and graduate assistant, Rae Balog, for her invaluable help with various aspects of this interview.

1. Could you tell us about your educational and professional background and why you decided to become an educator?

I guess it’s true when people say that “nothing happens by accident.” I was in law school at the Universidade de Sao Paulo (USP), which is considered the best higher education institution in Brazil, when I came to the United States one summer to visit my boyfriend. I had never considered leaving law school because I was the first one in my family to ever have passed the difficult admission exam into the elite university. Giving up was not an option. However, the summer I spent in the U.S. left an impression strong enough for me to consider leaving everything in Brazil. I was tired of the violence and very disappointed to learn about the corruption in politics. Up until my admission to law school, I was a poor, naïve, idealistic Brazilian who wanted to become a judge or enter politics to help people, but learning about how the law worked, or didn’t work, crushed my dreams. Without any hope that I could really leave my country and my family and being afraid to crush my mother’s dreams to have a daughter graduate from USP, I decided to discuss the matter with my mother. To my surprise, she agreed to let me come and begin a new life with new possibilities.

When I came to the United States, I did not know much English. I had never attended a language school in Brazil, and my knowledge of the language was limited to what I had learned in my weekly one-hour classes beginning in middle school. But I was determined to continue my education in the U.S., so I went to a local community college and was placed in ESL classes. In the middle of my first class, my teacher said that I “learned very fast.” He suggested that I take English 101 right after that class. I always felt insecure about my language skills, so I took an English class below to get me prepared to compete with native speakers. In addition to the obvious vocabulary disadvantage, a lot of the material studied also required cultural knowledge, but I persevered and even took honor English classes.

When I transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), I still felt my English was not strong enough even though I had graduated with honors. I wanted to be able to speak, read, and write like a native speaker, so I majored in English literature thinking that that was the best way to master the language. I think I succeeded in this regard, but after four years in this country and almost at the end of my studies, I felt a little lost as to what to do with a degree in English. I still felt that it was not good enough to work as an editor, which was the job that my professors mentioned.

“By accident,” I chose to take a TESL class as an elective. It opened my eyes. In that class, my professor told me that I was such a good learner of English that she was sure I could make a good teacher of ESL. The seed was planted that day. I decided I was going to become an educator so other ESL students could see that it was possible to learn ESL. I had the option to stay at UCLA as a graduate student, but at that time, I wanted to learn how to teach and focus on the practical side of TESOL, so I went to California State University, Los Angeles and finished my master’s in TESOL in one year.

My biggest obstacle was my own insecurity, which came in the form of a graduate school classmate’s voice. One day when I proudly said that I wanted to have a full-time teaching job, a classmate asked me, “Why would anyone hire you when they could hire me?”  I wanted to prove to this classmate that I knew there were some disadvantages in being a non-native speaker, but there were also many advantages.  After working at a language school for a year, friends suggested that I apply for a part-time position at Pasadena City College andGlendale Community College.  I buried my insecurities and tried to convince myself that I had something a native speaker could never have: the experience of learning ESL just like my students. After one semester working part-time, I applied for a full-time position and was hired.  I chose to teach at a community college because I wanted my students to be encouraged by a positive example. I know what my students feel because I was in their shoes. I also know that they can succeed even when they say they are “too old” to learn English.

2. You mentioned that you chose to teach at a community college because you wanted to encourage students by being a positive example and by letting them know that you have been in their shoes. Can you elaborate on why you feel reaching students at the community college level is important to you and the profession and why you can identify with students in this context?

As students in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, we learn about the “Critical Period Hypothesis” in graduate school. We hear about how we lose “plasticity” in the brain after puberty. This theory explains why adults have more difficulties learning a second language and even explains “fossilization” in language. But I believe that most, if not all immigrants, are unaware of this theory, and yet they come into the classroom already feeling defeated.  When they come to a community college, they are searching to better their lives, and they are motivated. However, at the same time, it is as if they are telling themselves that they know the language and age barrier are too strong for them to succeed. The main reason I wanted to focus on community college students is to not just tell them they can succeed but show them how it is possible. I was there; I was them. Like my students today, I was an adult in a community college trying to learn English. What I experienced and did, which ultimately led to my success, is much the same what the students are experiencing, and I hope that they, too, feel successful.

At the same time, I think that due to globalization, many professionals today are like me. There are many non-native speakers of English who are teaching or plan to become teachers, especially in California. Many of these professionals may have the same insecurities or even face discrimination. Perhaps when they read success stories, they too can feel empowered and focus on the positive aspects of teaching English as a non-native speaker. I want my students and the non-native professionals to be able to understand that their tasks, namely the task of learning ESL as adults and the task of teaching ESL as non-native speakers are very difficult tasks, but they can overcome the difficulties.

3. In the NNEST Newsletter of March 1999, you made a very timely analogy between what has been referred by many as the NNEST ‘movement’ and a human ‘wave’ at a sporting event. One of your arguments in this piece is that NNESTs must join forces to make this ‘wave’ more and more powerful and significant in the field.  For example, you described the creation of the NNEST Caucus within TESOL (now an Interest Section) as “the wave (…) on its way”. Now, 13 years later, how would you characterize this ‘wave’ or ‘movement’ today? Additionally, to what extent do you feel you have personally helped to make or strengthen this wave? How so?

Organizing and starting a wave at any sporting event are the hardest parts, for they require the participation of many and the synchronization of minds. However, unlike waves at sporting events, an intellectual wave does not have all bodies in one place looking at one coordinator. On the contrary, an intellectual wave consists of minds that think alike but may not be at the same stage of thought. It’s harder then to coordinate this wave because all minds must agree on a starting point and what direction to follow without having a coordinator to look at. When I wrote that article, the number of non-native speakers in TESOL programs was on the rise.  With that, schools were seeing an increase in the number of teaching applicants who did not speak English as their native language. There were problems on both sides. On one side there were non-native TESOL professionals who felt insecure about their skills, were discriminated against despite their qualifications, and felt powerless to deal with these issues. On the other side there were employers who did not see the value of the non-native professionals, quickly misjudged and dismissed well-qualified candidates due to a non-standard accent, or just were not sure if someone who did not speak English as a native language could teach it. We needed to start a “wave” to educate both sides. Dr. Lia Kamhi-Stein was instrumental in this part. With her as the co-founder and first coordinator of the NNEST Interest Group in CATESOL, we started gathering the minds in one place. Without her organization and coordination, the “wave” would have never started. Today the “wave” is strong. I helped with the beginning of the wave, but it is still going because more people have joined and because now we have more leaders to coordinate each section and make sure we all raise our arms and keep it going.

4. You have played a very active role in the professional CATESOL organization as the NNEST Interest Group coordinator. How and why did you get involved in this particular organization and what have you learned through this experience?

Well, this organization was the beginning of the “wave.” Dr. Kamhi-Stein served as my mentor and role model, and when she got me involved in CATESOL and TESOL, I started to see many facets of the profession. I attended conferences, I presented at conferences, but I did not know much about the inner workings ofCATESOL. Once I joined the board, I learned leadership skills and the importance of being a leader in the field. There were many reasons to join this organization, but the most important ones were to increase the visibility of non-native speakers in the field and give them a place to call “home,” where they can find others in the same situation. The experience greatly increased my self-confidence and drive to succeed.

5. How did you prepare yourself for this type of leadership position? What advice could you offer emerging NNESTs who seek to become more integrated in the NNEST community and assume a leadership role in it and/or in TESOL as a whole?

At the beginning of my graduate studies, I thought that professional organizations were only for “professionals,” people who were already working in the field, not students learning about the field. Again, with guidance from Dr. Kamhi-Stein, I learned that belonging to a professional organization could enhance my learning process. In fact, when one becomes a member of TESOL or CATESOL, one has a chance to not only learn from the experts but also join the caucuses or interest groups and be a part of what is happening in a specific area of the field. To explore the “wave” idea, I would say that one can be a spectator and watch a wave during a game. Joining a professional organization would be like being at the game itself. It is only by being at the game that one can have a chance to be part of, to experience, and to feel the wave. There is a lot to be learned that does not fit in a book. Leadership is one of the greatest lessons I received from CATESOL.  It is a wonderful organization because it makes you feel as part of a team. The members of the board make sure that new people coming in know that they are not alone. I don’t think I prepared myself for the position as much as they prepared me for it, but before I joined the board I followed little steps. I volunteered at conferences, read proposals for presentations, went to interest group and level meetings, helped organize conferences, presented, and tried to learn as much as I could about every position in the organization. Anyone who wishes to be part of the organization in a leadership position can start by doing the same things. At the very beginning, one can attend regional and state conferences and start networking. The members of the board are always present, and approaching a member in person is always a good start.

6. You have participated in various CATESOL development conferences through which lesson plans and workshops for fellow educators are offered. What would you describe as your greatest accomplishment and/or most memorable moment as an NNEST leader during these events?

There have been several memorable moments, but I think one of the most memorable ones happened many years ago at the statewide CATESOL in Pasadena, when we had the first meeting of the newly formed NNEST Interest Group. I remember feeling very anxious that not many people would show up, but when I saw that the room was packed, with standing room only, I realized I was part of something important. Everyone in that room felt relief to see that we were not alone. The audience listened to Dr. Kamhi-Stein.  I talked about my experience and saw heads nodding in agreement. I met wonderful people that day, people who went on to become leaders, people who today serve as role models.

7. In your TESOL Matters piece (Kamhi-Stein, Lee, & Lee, 1999), titled How TESOL Programs Can Enhance The Preparation Of Non Native English Speakers, you discuss the importance of role models for teachers in preparation. Can you discuss the impact that role models have had on your own career and professional development? Additionally, do you perceive yourself as a role model for teachers in training?

My mentor and role model Dr. Kamhi-Stein has been very important. When I saw that a non-native speaker could be a professor in a graduate program, I felt empowered. It was at that point that I started thinking that I could become a good teacher in spite of my non-nativeness. It was when I started working even harder towards my goal of succeeding as a language learner and teacher and becoming a leader in the field. I don’t know if I can be considered a role model for teachers in training, but I hope that I can serve as inspiration not to give up. I want them to see that they can be excellent professionals even though English is not their first language. I want them to tell themselves that they can find a job even when they are competing with native-speakers.

8. You conducted a research study (Lee & Lew, 2001) on the voices of nonnative English speakers in a Masters of Arts Program through diary studies. How did the context of your study and the participants you worked with relate to your own experiences as a then Master’s student in the United States? Did you ever make use of a diary in a similar way as your study?

As I read the participants’ diaries I could see the parallels between what they wrote and what I had felt as a student. I could see the constant struggle with self-doubt and the tough reality of being an English language learner trying to become a teacher. The only difference was that at the time the participants were in their graduate programs writing about their experiences, the NNEST Interest Group had already been created and changes were already happening in the field. There were other studies and articles published, and the professional environment was more positive towards non-native speakers than when I was in a graduate program. The diaries served an important purpose, however, because the participants were encouraged to externalize their feelings and see that they were not alone. With externalization comes awareness of problems and possible solutions. More importantly, when one writes about possible shortcomings, there is also that self-defense mechanism that kicks in and makes one look at the positive side. That is, from the participants’ diaries I could see how the first entries reflected a stronger self-doubt in their abilities, especially when they compared themselves with classmates who were native speakers or when they had discussions in which the native speakers referred to cultural background the non-native speakers did not have. In later entries, though, the participants became more self-confident. It was the same as my experience as a Master’s student. When I started teaching, I also kept a diary which also showed the same self-doubt at the beginning and a gradual increase in self confidence, which came from not only experience in the field but also from connecting with other non-native professionals.

9. How many years have you worked as an NNEST at Glendale Community College? As an experienced NNEST teacher and now long time resident of the United States, how do you position yourself vis-à-vis others (both in TESOL and otherwise) who are unaware of both the challenges and the opportunities encountered by NNESTs?

I have been working at Glendale Community College since 1998. I have learned a lot and continue to learn about the language, the culture, and the profession. As with everything, nothing is perfect and there are many obstacles, but that’s what is called EXPERIENCE. I can say now that I am an experienced language learner and teacher. The experience I have gained makes me much more self-confident as a teacher. While at the beginning of my teaching I was afraid to reveal to students that I was not a native speaker, now it is one of the things the students hear from me on the first day of classes. In addition, although I still feel somewhat at a disadvantage when I talk to native speakers, my involvement in professional organizations made me realize that I can overcome this feeling by focusing on what I have to contribute to the field. That is, I believe that all professionals in the field can benefit from educating themselves about the challenges and accomplishments of NNESTs. To the NNESTs, the benefits are obvious: if they learn about the challenges, they can make plans to deal with the challenges and learning about the opportunities can direct them towards the right path in the profession. What about the others? They can learn that being a native speaker of a language does not automatically make a person a good teacher of that language. I know that although I am a native speaker of Portuguese, I would not be the best Portuguese teacher because I am not trained for that and have no experience in that area. In the same manner, just because a person was not brought up speaking English does not mean that he or she cannot become a great teacher of ESL.

10. As an experienced ESL Teacher, to what extent do you feel that your formal education (BA and MA) prepared you, as an NNEST, to confront and help dispel the native speaker myth? What advice would you give to teacher preparation programs regarding this issue?

Both my BA and MA greatly prepared me to confront and dispel the native speaker myth. With my degree in English Literature from UCLA, I feel prepared to talk about some aspects of the language that not even all native speakers can understand. I learned the history of the language from its birth and developed vocabulary and cultural background by reading. With my MA, I felt prepared to pass the knowledge I attained to my students using effective methods.

One of the things I wish teacher preparation programs would do is to use the nonnative speakers in their program in a way that would benefit all of the teachers in preparation. It would be great for a teacher to find out what worked and what didn’t BEFORE a lesson. Nonnative speakers could share their English learning experience from their cultural point of view so all teachers to-be could learn about cultural awareness when preparing a lesson. All parties could benefit from learning about the pitfalls of teaching different language groups. Non-native speakers would learn to see their experience as an asset instead of an impediment  and native speakers would have the chance to draw from the non-native speakers’ experience and improve their teaching methods.


Kamhi-Stein, L., Lee, E., & Lee, C. (1999). How TESOL programs can enhance the preparation of nonnative English speakers. TESOL Matters, 9(4). Online at:

Lee, E. (1999). Wanted: A wave of role models. NNEST Newsletter, 1(1), p. 11. Online at:

Lee, E., & Lew, L. (2001). Diary studies: The voices of nonnative English speakers in a master of arts program in teaching English to speakers of other languages. The CATESOL Journal, 13(1), p. 135-150. 

Li-fen Lin

                                             NNEST of the Month

February 2012


Li-fen Lin recently completed her Ph. D. in the department of linguistics at the University of California at Davis.  The title of her dissertation was On the Developmental Journey: An Ethnographic Study of Teacher Identity Development of NESTs and NNESTs in a US MATESOL Program.  She began her university education by majoring in English language and literature at National Taiwan Normal University.  After graduation she taught English at Taipei Municipal Ming Der Junior High School and later joined a three-year experimental research project on teaching English to elementary school students at the National Experimental High School (NEHS) in Hsinchu, Taiwan.  While studying for a MA at the University of Southern California, she taught in the OIS ESL program. Upon graduation she returned to Taiwan and became a full-time lecturer in the English Department at National Central University in Taiwan for two years. There she taught undergraduate students academic English, and also designed and taught courses such as English Composition, Oral Training, Language Acquisition and Teaching, and Introduction to Linguistics to English major students.  While she was a doctoral student at UC Davis, she taught academic writing to international graduate students new to UC Davis and also introduction to linguistics. After graduation from UC Davis she was a lecturer in Stanford University’s English for Foreign Students program in the summer of 2011.  Also, Li-fen has been active in the TESOL and CATESOL organizations. She was the web manager of TESOL’s NNEST interest group from 2009 to 2011 and has been the coordinator of CATESOL’s NNLEI interest group from 2010 to present.  She has also given several presentations at TESOL, CATESOL, and AAAL conferences. 

NNEST February Interviewer:  Terry Doyle

1.  Tell us about your educational, linguistic, and teaching background. For example, why did you decide to enter the major in your university in Taiwan to prepare to be an English teacher in Taiwan? Also, what experiences have you had as an English teacher in Taiwan and in the United States?

 I grew up speaking Taiwanese at home and learning and speaking Mandarin Chinese at school. I started to learn English in junior high school as everyone else in Taiwan at that time. I had great luck with my English teachers through high school, which helped me develop my interest in English language and literature. Also because of the high status of English as a foreign language in Taiwan (Chen, 2003; Tsao, 2004), I chose English as my major when I studied at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). As to why I decided to become a teacher, the feminization and high occupational prestige of the teaching profession in Taiwan (Fwu & Wang, 2002) “encouraged” me to think teaching would be the best career choice for me. And having found how much I love teaching since I was at NTNU, I have been committed to this profession, no matter whether I am given the chance to teach English or Chinese, young kids or adults. 

I began my TESOL career teaching secondary school students English as a foreign language in Taipei. In my third year of teaching, I joined a three-year experimental research project on teaching English to elementary school students. Upon the finish of the three-year project, I attended the University of Southern California (USC) to advance my study in TESOL. At USC, I taught as an ESL Teacher in the OIS English Language Program, teaching English to visiting scholars, international graduate students and their spouses for a school year. Hereafter, I taught English to EFL and ESL students at primary, secondary and tertiary level. After graduation from USC, I returned to Taiwan and worked as a full-time lecturer in the English Department of the National Central University in Taiwan for two years. At UC Davis, besides working as a teaching assistant teaching introduction to Linguistics, I also taught as a graduate student teaching Chinese and Advanced Academic English for International Graduate Students. In the summer of 2011 I was a lecturer in Stanford University’s English for Foreign Students program.

2. How do you compare your experiences as an English teacher in Taiwan vs. your experiences in the United States, especially concerning the development of your teacher identity?

When I taught at the secondary school in Taipei, I was a homeroom teacher as well as an English teacher. I was responsible for every aspect of my homeroom students’ total education. My teacher identity was maintained and reassured through my success in performing the roles of an educator, an empathetic counselor, a language model and a grammar expert. Then when I participated in the 3-year research project, I had the chance to work with NESTs as a team member to design and develop English teaching activities and materials. Even though I was aware of the privileging of NESTs in Taiwan, especially from parents’ perception, I did not find my identity as an English teacher challenged. Rather, I recognized my strengths of sharing the L1 and culture with students and my ability to manage big classes and to act in different roles as needed (Llurda, 2004; Medgyes, 1994; Tatar & Yildiz, 2010). In fact, I embraced my new identities as an elementary school teacher, a materials writer and a researcher. 

In the United States, I strived to reposition myself through my roles as an international graduate student in English in the US academic community, as an NNEST, and as a new member functioning in the society of my target language. At USC, I was the only non-native English speaker teaching in the OIS ESL program. This experience familiarized me with the diverse needs of students from different first language backgrounds and discrepant English proficiency levels. My confidence in ELT reached a new high because I found myself capable of adjusting and adapting teaching methods and styles in responding to these diverse needs. The positive teaching experience at USC gave new meanings to my identity as a TESOL professional. In short, my identity as an EFL/ESL teacher, as I reflected and wrote in the introduction of my dissertation, “has been in constant flux and change in relation to my linguistically and culturally diverse students and the immediate contexts in which we were situated” (Lin, 2011, p. 11).

3.  When did your non-nativeness as an English teacher become visible to you, and how did this affect and shape your future research and career expectations? 

What discrimination and unfairness have you experienced personally, and how have you dealt with these incidents?  Were you treated differently as an English teacher in Taiwan and in the United States? 

It was a discriminatory hiring practice that heightened my awareness of the gate-keeping role my nonnative status and race/ethnicity played in the TESOL profession, especially in American society. At the end of my first year as a doctoral student back in California, I was recommended and assigned to teach academic writing to international graduate students as a graduate student instructor for the following year. However, I was questioned by the graduate ESL program coordinator, who had an MA degree as I did, and was asked by her to take the very class I had been assigned to teach first. Her reason was that I was an international student and a non-native speaker of English. My nonnativeness suddenly became visible to me then. 

My lived experience of marginalization pointed to “the absurdity of an educational system that prepares one for a profession for which it disqualifies the person at the same time” (Canagarajah, 1999, p. 77).  To understand the “absurdity” of such an education system and practice, I started to investigate how the professional identities of both NES and NNES student teachers as ESL/EFL teachers are shaped by professional discourses in the MATESOL program, and how their (non)native status influences this enculturation process and their teaching practices. The purpose of my dissertation was to pursue an understanding of the discursive process of negotiation and construction of teacher identity.

4.  Your dissertation completed for your PH. D. at the University of California at Davis last fall was a longitudinal ethnographic study in which you examined case studies of four student teachers in an MA TESOL program in one of the California State Universities; one participant was an international student, one an immigrant student, and two were “native speaker” students born in the United States. You state that one reason for choosing this topic was because “the NNEST/NEST dichotomy remains the most prevalent way of theorizing teacher identity in TESOL” and that “the process of the search for and construction of professional teacher identity, especially within MATESOL programs, is understudied in the field of TESOL and Applied Linguistics.” Can you explain how your study begins to fill the gap in the literature of TESOL and Applied Linguistics? How has your study added to the literature of Applied linguistics, teacher identity formation, and NNEST issues? 

Before I answer this question, I want to thank Terry again for believing in my work and reading my draft. My dissertation study contributes to the previous NNEST literature and the literature on ESL/EFL teacher identity in three ways. First, drawing on ethnography as methodology, this longitudinal project contributes new insights into the importance of teacher identity development in the process of learning to teach in an MATESOL program from the student teachers’ perspectives. My participant and non-participant observation of the student teachers’ interactions in multiple dimensions inside and outside the classes they took or taught provides a situated description and situational comprehension of the kind of participation and negotiation that student teachers experience in the process of becoming an ELT professional. These are issues that quantitative research neglects to explore, and that interview-based research cannot provide data for (Lin, 2011). 

Secondly, since no study has addressed the issue of teacher identity in TESOL and related fields by comparing the identity construction of prospective NNES and NES teachers within an MATESOL program, this study contributes to the bodies of existing research by providing a comparative study of NNES and NES student teachers’ identity construction within a MATESOL program. By including both NES and NNES student teachers, this study gives voices to student teachers coming from marginalized groups as well as from the dominant group. This dissertation adds to the understanding of  how the idealized NES and the marginalized NNES student teacher negotiate and articulate their professional identities as they participate in dialogic interaction in the MATESOL program and in the wider TESOL community (Lin, 2011).

Finally, this study contributes to the understanding of teacher identity construction through a situated examination of the linguistic choices made by student teachers to position themselves in relation to their colleagues and other interpersonal, institutional, and social contexts. Following Weedon’s (1987) idea that language and identity are mutually constitutive, my dissertation study looks locally at multiple aspects of teacher identity in relation to the larger social, cultural and political contexts through language and discourse.  (Lin, 2011).

5.  The last sentence of your dissertation is “Developing and gaining one’s autonomy to navigate our continuous journey in development should be the central task for teachers, student teachers, and teacher trainers.”  How has your research helped you, the participants in your research, and readers of your dissertation to develop and gain such autonomy?

Working with my participants in this dissertation project has allowed me to continuously examine and reflect on my professional self. In the course of writing this dissertation, I have found that my own teacher identity has been transformed over and over again through their narratives of struggles and growth. Their stories add to our understanding of the realities facing student teachers in the local contexts like this MATESOL program and how they navigate their developmental journey. I feel deeply grateful to my participants and it is my hope that this dissertation brings their voices, NESTs and NNESTs, to the dialogue on teacher identity in language teacher education and teacher development. It is also my hope that this dissertation and the stories of my participants will engage my readers in the dialogues with themselves and others, internally and externally, and hopefully help to develop and gain their autonomy in this life-long developmental journey.

6.  As an ESL teacher in a community college which is in the same city as a well known and respected MA TESOL program in a large public university, each semester I have the opportunity to work with one or more student teachers from this MA TESOL program. What advice can you give me on how to better mentor student teachers? In particular, should I and if so how can I focus on their identity formation as a mentor teacher? 

As I concluded in my dissertation, “a focus on teacher identity construction in a teacher preparation program allows student teachers to become more conscious and in control of their learning-to- teach trajectory” (Lin, 2011, p. 229). It is important that each student teacher has an individual sense of his or her identity development. Teacher educators and mentor teachers should support and encourage their student teachers to explore, experiment with, negotiate, and create their pedagogical selves. As I have known from your work, you have committed a great deal of time and work helping your student teachers develop pedagogy that is sensitive to their immediate local social and cultural contexts. Your work is an excellent example of how mentor teachers’ meta-awareness of student teacher identity development provides space and opportunities for student teachers to self-initiate their professional development.

7.  You are a wife of a busy hard-working husband and also the mother of two young children.  How do you find the time, energy, and motivation not only to complete a PH.D. degree, be the coordinator of CATESOL’s NNLEI interest group, be the web manager of TESOL’s NNEST interest group, give XX presentations at TESOL and CATESOL conferences in the past three years, be busy writing a book version of your dissertation which you hope to publish in the next year, AND take care of two kids and a husband?  

Upon further reflection on my life as a doctoral student and a mother of two children, I am grateful to my family for their unflagging support and love. Without their support and love, I wouldn’t have the time and space to accomplish what I have been inspired to do. 

Balancing motherhood and doctoral work had been a great challenge for me. One thing I learned from my own experience is to be flexible. I was a mother first, though it was my newly added identity. I cooked, fed, played, gave a bath to my children before I could open my dissertation file to take on the role of a doctoral student in front of my laptop. I was a wife last because I thought my helpful husband could take care of himself while I focused on being a mother and a graduate student. But there were always times when the situations went against the priorities I set. Sometimes I didn’t get to go near my dissertation file for two whole weeks when my children got sick. Very often, my helpful husband just wouldn’t take the kids to the park by himself because he wanted me there too. Not to mention that I had other various roles I played at the same: a daughter, a teacher, a friend, etc. So I needed to learn to be flexible to curb my anxiety of not being able to fulfill them all. I had to learn to set realistic goals for my daily schedule. And I had to admit it to myself that it takes a long time to earn a doctorate, especially juggling the conflicting demands of motherhood and doctoral studies at the same time.

As for the motivation, I have been inspired and encouraged by the work done by the leaders of our community. I have been fortunate to meet and get to know and work with some of these extraordinary leaders: Kathleen M. Bailey, Luciana de Oliveira, Terry Doyle, Lia Kamhi-Stein, Ahmar Mahboob, Ana Wu, to name a few. Working with them enables me to see the importance and action of shared leadership, mentoring and collaboration. I believe that active participation can lead to the changes we wish to see. So I follow their lead to assume leadership roles in hoping to help further the goals of our community. Inside or outside of TESOL, I hope I will be a part of the force that leads us to a better world.


 Lin, L. F. (2011). On the Developmental Journey: An Ethnographic Study of Teacher Identity Development of NESTs and NNESTs in a US MATESOL Program  Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California, Davis.

 Canagarajah, A. S. (1999). Interrogating the “native speaker fallacy”: Non-linguistic roots, non-pedagogical results. In G. Braine (Ed.), Non-native educators in English language teaching(pp. 77-92). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

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