Language Arts Teacher Interviews

    Middle School Spanish Teacher and Faculty Member at Harrisburg University, Lisa Butler
    Texas ESL Teacher Trainer and Founder of Kid World Citizen, Becky Morales
    Reading Specialist and Former Texas Third Grade Language Arts Teacher, Megan Favre
    Michigan Language Arts Teacher, Colby Sharp
    Former President of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English, John Ritchie
    Saskatchewan French and Spanish Teacher, Krista Gates
    Past President of the Florida Chinese Teachers Association, Yee-Chen Robson

    Interview with Lisa Butler, Former Middle School Spanish Teacher and Faculty Member at Harrisburg University

    We interviewed Lisa Butler, who at the time of the interview taught Spanish at a Pennsylvania middle school, as well as Web 2.0 in the Classroom at Harrisburg University. She now teaches middle grades social studies and works as an educational technology advisor. Lisa earned a BS in Social Studies Education at Elizabethtown College, later going on to earn an MS in Learning Technologies at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

    lisa-butlerPlease describe what a typical day is like for you as a Spanish teacher, Lisa.
    I try to arrive at school by 6:45 AM so I have fifteen minutes to read the news or check Twitter for professional resources and enjoy my coffee. At 7 PM, I have an open door help policy; I encourage students to come in early for personalized help if they need extra help or practice. Normally, I have a few students a week take me up on the offer.

    All my students have access to technology in the classroom. My sixth graders have access to some netbooks and Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT). The eighth grade is 1:1 with netbooks. Before my first period of teaching, I update Edmodo, which is home base. Each day, I post the daily agenda, necessary resources, and/or links. If students miss class for any reason, they can easily catch up on assignments and/or classwork. Students don’t have to try and track down resources from various websites; they know exactly where to look to find what they need. They also know when things are due or upcoming because of the calendar I manage for each of class.

    The majority of my day is spent teaching both sixth grade and eighth grade Spanish. Depending on the day, I also have lunch duty or a department meeting for us to discuss curriculum, common assessments, or other department-related information. There is a small portion of my day that is spent communicating with parents and/or students. Students ask a lot of questions on Edmodo and parents e-mail their questions or concerns.

    At the end of some school days, I help with afterschool activities. This year it is co-advising a BYOT Club and Spanish Club. Other years, I’ve helped with Intermural sports and tutoring. That normally is the end of my day, on school property. There is always something I could be working on at home – updating class website, grading, planning, etc.

    What aspects of your job are the most challenging and how do you overcome them?
    One of the most challenging parts of the job is planning. Detailed planning is crucial for the success of teaching, included detailed plans B, C, and possibly D. This also includes adapting lessons on the fly to ensure that every student understands. I’ve done a better job of not taking lessons that flopped personally. It is a better use of effort to figure out how to improve before the next class.

    Another challenge is being a baggage handler. Many students come to the classroom with outside issues that will be a barrier to learning. It is frustrating when students shut down and don’t want to (or can’t focus) to learn. As a teacher, you have to work extra hard to develop a relationship so that the students are able to ignore the baggage and focus on the learning.

    What do you most enjoy about being a teacher?
    It is not the mythical summers off. What I enjoy most about teaching is the opportunity to make someone a lifelong learner. Since I teach middle school, my goal is not complete mastery, but to inspire the students to continue learning as long as they can.

    I still remember the teachers that I had throughout school who inspired me to learn more – and not just on topics restricted to the class content. I fully believe that there is a shift to how students access knowledge. I love being the guide – showing them how to find out more when there is a topic that really draws their attention. I’m not a gatekeeper trying to restrict them from knowledge, if they want to know about the past tense in sixth grade, they can have a real life preview thanks to the instant connectivity online. These spontaneous learning moments are memorable and more likely to make them lifelong seekers of knowledge, whether seeking Spanish, German, history, technology or something completely random.

    Learning a foreign language can be a challenging task for some learners. How do you make Spanish lessons relevant to your students’ lives and emphasize the importance of learning another language?
    There are some lessons that are consistent through the years, but for the most part, every year the lessons are customized for the group of students I have. I know people say that after you teach a few years you do not have to put as much effort into planning because you can just copy what you already did. But, I am unsatisfied with just copying. There are so many great ways to get students interested in Spanish. When they hear or see it in their world, it makes a huge difference. I love when there are commercials, songs played on the radio, or movies that have a portion in Spanish. But you cannot re-use these high-interest items from year-to-year without losing the interest piece.

    I try to get the students to see the Spanish around them starting during the first week of class. Generally, we discuss where they’ve seen Spanish before: food cartons, instruction manuals, clothing labels, etc. I have them bring in a picture of something they found around their house with Spanish on it. I also create a Google form asking if they know anyone who speaks Spanish and where that person is originally from. The responses are automatically mapped with pins of the person’s name and where they are from. The sixth graders are very excited to find the people they know. It is also a good chance for them to talk to the adults in their lives and find out who has a more diverse culture.

    What advice can you give to recent graduates who are preparing to start a teaching career?
    Be prepared to clearly articulate your learning goals and assessments. As teachers, we like to think lessons are about learning, but to many students and parents they are more grade-centric. If you have clear assessment policies and expectations, it will make your job easier. I wish I had been exposed to more assessment research and theories before entering the classroom. In my professional dialogue group we are reading Ken O’Connor’s How to Grade for Learning. This would be a perfect pre-classroom reading. Looking back to the beginning of my career, not all of my assessments graded what I thought they did. Also, not everything that is turned in has to be graded. I remember feeling like I was buried in an avalanche of grading; now, I give timely and appropriate feedback but not necessarily grades for assignments.

    We sincerely thank Lisa for sharing her educational advice. Visit her blog, Adventures with Technology, for more teaching inspiration, or view Spanish Techbook, a digital techbook that she has created for her sixth-grade students to use in place of a traditional textbook. Finally, connect with Lisa on LinkedIn and Twitter @SrtaLisa.

    Interview with Becky Morales, Texas ESL Teacher Trainer and Founder of Kid World Citizen

    We had the opportunity to interview Becky Morales, a Texas ESL Teacher Trainer who founded the nonprofit organization, Kid World Citizen. Becky attended the University of Illinois, where she earned a BA degree in Spanish Education, as well as a MA degree in Teaching ESL, with a concentration in Cross-Cultural Communication. Becky also earned a MA in School Counseling at Roosevelt University. She is an eight-year veteran of the classroom. Becky previously taught at the high school and college levels. In between volunteering at local schools, conducting diversity trainings, and leading her local elementary school’s International Club, Becky is writing a book that will serve as a toolkit for elementary schools seeking to globalize their lessons.

    becky-moralesYou established a nonprofit, Kid World Citizen, which aims to provide educators and parents with activities that will help children’s minds “go global.” Can you tell us more about why you started this organization, and also your philosophy for getting young learners interested in the world around them?

    My family is very multicultural, with my husband from Mexico City, two biological daughters, a son from China and a son from Ethiopia. I am very interested in geography and learning about other cultures myself, and my husband and I are trying to raise our children to be responsible, compassionate world citizens. I began sharing the activities I have used with my kids and in the classroom, to expand global awareness. I believe that if we raise kids to understand other perspectives, they will grow up to be empathetic adults who can respond to global issues successfully.

    What aspects of your job are the most challenging and how do you overcome them?
    As a high school ESL teacher, my challenge was helping students overcome outside problems so that they could be successful in school. It broke my heart to see students who were working until 3 a.m. – taking care of siblings, dealing with abusive parents, and then trying to stay awake and attentive in school – but still getting in trouble for not finishing homework. It was hard for me to separate my emotions from my job, and often I would lie awake thinking about certain students.

    Now as a teacher trainer, I miss being with my students (though I may go back to work at the high school level next year)! I guess one challenge as a teacher trainer is trying to convince a couple of the longtime teachers who are unwilling to change their perspectives and methods. A few are used to doing translations or drill and repeat lessons, and think that communicative activities are too ‘soft.’ Overall, I love working in education and cannot ever imagine changing to a different area or industry!

    What do you most enjoy about being an educator?
    I love the interaction of sharing and learning in class. My favorite part of teaching ESL is that everyone in the class has such a diverse range of backgrounds and ideas. Debates, presentations, reports, and even just conversations are so fascinating because we’re all hearing different perspectives and experiences. I also love the moment that a student remembers something you’ve taught them – when the proverbial light bulb turns on and they ‘get it.’

    Please describe what a typical workday is like for you.
    Because I’m finishing up my book, I might start by getting my four kids off to school, and then spend the day on the computer writing or editing, researching at the library, compiling and editing interviews, or preparing lessons for my website. Some days I am in the schools – preparing displays or bulletin boards, getting ready for International Week, running Geography Stars before school, or presenting lessons. (Today I did Experiencing Ethiopia through the 5 Senses to a preschool class.)

    What advice can you give to recent graduates who are preparing to start a teaching career?
    Plan and prep ahead of time, and plan for more activities than you think you could get through. Sometimes, students fly through activities, and you don’t want to be left with extra time! Also, try to develop a support network, or a hobby to release stress. It’s hard to separate the emotions at the end of the day, but if you don’t keep yourself mentally healthy, you will suffer burn-out. I used to go running every day (pre-kids!) right after work with another teacher friend and it was a great way to decompress. Finally, remember to look at the whole picture before jumping to a judgment about students. Often, there are innumerable factors in the students’ personal lives that are weighing on their behavior at school, and these students need a positive adult role model who will look beyond the grades on paper.

    We sincerely thank Becky for taking the time to share her multicultural perspective on education and we wish her all the best as she wraps up her book. Be sure to check out Becky’s site, Kid World Citizen, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter @kidworldcitizen.

    Read about how to become a teacher in Texas.

    Interview with Megan Favre, Former Texas Third Grade Language Arts Teacher

    We recently had the opportunity to interview Megan Favre, who at the time of this interview taught language arts to third grade students in the Houston area. She now works as a Reading Specialist. Having transitioned from teaching in first, second, third and fourth-grade classrooms during the past 14 years, Megan jokes that she is an expert packer. With her academic pursuits, she was less mobile, attending Louisiana State University for all her degrees: a BS in Elementary Education, an MA in Curriculum & Instruction, and an EdS in Reading. During our exchange, Megan explained how she overcomes her greatest professional challenges, why she loves being a teacher, and finally, her straightforward advice for new educators.

    megan-favreWhat is a typical day as a teacher like for you?
    The simple version has me teaching reading, writing, and working with small groups while my students work independently. I love the Comprehension Toolkit for whole group reading instruction and a mixture of Lucy Calkins and the Six Traits for writing instruction. Reading The Daily Five changed my classroom management during small-group time. It answered the question for me of what are the rest of the students doing during this time that is academically meaningful.

    The real life version also involves meetings, e-mails, solving disagreements, fire drills, addressing behavior issues, tending to a sick or injured child, forgetting something I needed to do, and then finally laughing about it all at the end of the school day with my teaching partner.

    What aspects of your job are the most demanding and what do you do to overcome them?
    The most challenging aspects of my job are the ones that have me stepping outside of teaching children. No teacher is in love with all the documentation, meetings, and paperwork. I love planning lessons and teaching, so it can be very tempting to ignore the parts of my job that are not my favorite. The best way I’ve found to address it is to stay on top of all the paperwork, so it doesn’t become so daunting. The further you get behind, the harder it is to motivate yourself to catch up.

    What do you most enjoy about being a teacher?
    Hands down, my favorite part of being a teacher is getting to spend my day with kids. I love their unique personalities and their excitement about things big and small. It’s easy to become frustrated or stressed with all the responsibilities in teaching you are faced with that don’t have anything to do with these fun, little people. At the end of the day, the hugs and high fives I get remind me of why I do this.

    How do you create a successful balance between home and work responsibilities?
    I certainly don’t have this one mastered, but I learn a little more each year. The simplest and sometimes most challenging action you can take is to not to check your e-mail at home. When you receive an e-mail about paperwork you didn’t complete, a change you don’t like, or a note from an unhappy parent, the emotions that creates takes you away from your family. Ignorance is bliss.

    The best way to create balance is expect your family to support you. Somehow moms have gotten trapped in the expectation that we should be able to do everything for our families and keep up with a demanding full-time job. That’s a recipe for a full-blown meltdown. Most of us want more help but probably aren’t asking for it. Your family can’t support you if they don’t know what you need from them.

    Can you share any advice with new graduates who are preparing to enter the field of teaching?
    Don’t expect yourself to be perfect at everything at once. Pick the two most important areas of instruction in your teaching assignment and hone in on crafting those skills. When I began teaching, I focused on small-group reading instruction and math because I felt those areas would have the strongest impact on my students’ success. As I began to feel more confident in those areas of instruction, I started pushing myself to learn more about writing and using technology. What new teachers lack in experience, they more than make up for in enthusiasm. Make a plan and give yourself the time to grow.

    Also, explore the world of teaching blogs! When I started teaching, I was limited to the help I could get from the teachers in my hallway. Now teachers have access to an entire world of teachers with fresh ideas and perspectives.

    We thank Megan for sharing her wisdom and teaching experiences with us. To connect with her, visit her blog, I Teach. What’s Your Super Power? and follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter @mjfavre.

    Read about how to become a teacher in Texas.

    Interview with Colby Sharp, Michigan Language Arts Teacher

    Colby Sharp talked to us about his experiences working as a fourth grade teacher. Colby attended Western Michigan University where he earned a BS in Education. He later earned an MS in Literacy. During our conversation, we discussed how Colby builds a community of lifelong readers, writers and thinkers. We also learned how he balances the roles of parent, teacher, and husband, and his personal philosophy for how to best prepare fourth graders for middle school.

    Colby Sharp TeacherWhat do you enjoy most about teaching fourth grade?
    I enjoy my readers’ love for the world and their desire to learn as much about it as possible.

    On your site, Sharpread, you mention that your classroom passion is focused upon “building lifelong readers, writers and thinkers.” How do you accomplish this?
    Things can get a little crazy in fourth grade and often we have to move things around and skip over some of the activities that we had planned. On day one, I tell my students that each day they come to school they will read, write, think, and have recess. They can choose what they read, what they write and how they think about what we are discussing and learning. They also get to pick what they do at recess, but they cannot choose to not read, not think, not write, and not play. It seems to work out pretty well.

    Please describe a typical day in the classroom.
    Does a typical day exist? Just kidding. This year, I teach only language arts. I have two sections, so I have each set of kids for a half day. We don’t do anything flashy or fancy. We read, we write and we talk about reading and writing.

    How do you use technology as a tool for learning in your classroom?
    I think we need to be careful with technology and make sure that we are using it as a tool to get across what we want students to learn. I try to keep technology as authentic as possible: students blog, students read book blogs, we Skype, we write. Nothing fancy.

    What techniques do you use to create a harmonious work and life balance?
    Hmmm…This is a difficult question. I wouldn’t say that I always do a good job balancing life. My family comes first, so from 5 – 9 PM each night, I spend time with my wife and children. My kids are young so I am able to do a lot of reading with them. I try to get a lot of things done in the morning. I wake up about 80 minutes before my family members do, and I get to school about 90 minutes before school starts. This allows me to be able to leave school within 45 minutes of dismissal. The most important thing that I do to keep life in balance is date my wife. During 95% of weekends, we go out for at least dinner – just the two of us. It is my favorite part of my week.

    How do you empower fourth graders for the significant transitions that are just around the corner in middle school?
    My fourth graders go to middle school in fifth grade, so it is a pretty hot topic from spring break until the end of the school year. I don’t ever think of preparing them for middle school. I think that I am just trying to help prepare them for life. Our job as teachers is to take our students from wherever they are socially and academically, and help them move forward. Just like with my own children, I want my students to be the best individuals they can be.

    We thank Colby for sharing his thoughts about his educational philosophy, and wish him a successful year of teaching. Visit his blog Sharpread, for more discussions about language arts education and be sure to follow him on LinkedIn and Instagram @colbysharp.

    Read about how to become a teacher in Michigan.

    Interview with John Ritchie, Former President of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English

    John Ritchie, who at the time of this interview was the President of the Kansas Association of Teachers of English, was kind enough to spend some of his time on an interview with us. Below are his insights on becoming a teacher and making the most out of technology in and out of the classroom.

    teacher john ritchieCan you share with us what led you to pursue a career in teaching?
    As an English major at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I was not initially interested in teaching – at least not at the secondary level. However, it was something I naturally fell into. During my time at UNK, I worked as both a writing consultant at the UNK Writing Center and as a tutor for the UNK Learning Center. Without intending to, I found myself in teaching roles. I also found that I enjoyed the experience of working one-on-one and in larger groups to help people write better and learn critical thinking skills. I taught Composition classes as a graduate student earning my Master’s Degree. I enjoyed those classes so much that, instead of continuing on for a PhD, I shocked family and friends by going back for a Secondary Education degree just so I could focus the majority of my efforts in the classroom and with students.

    What technology tools do you find most effective for helping your students learn in the classroom?
    Google has several free and easy-to-use tools for teachers and students alike. While many of my students do not have the latest version of Word on their home computers (or sometimes even have a home computer), the majority of them have smart phones or constant access to the Internet. Google Docs has been particularly helpful since students can write essays from any device connected to the Internet. They no longer have to worry about flash drives, compatibility, or e-mailing essays back and forth. Google Docs also allows us to save paper by allowing me to comment on students’ essays online. That opens the revision process to beyond the 48 minutes in the classroom.

    Are there any ways that technology makes teaching more difficult?
    Relying solely upon text-based sources in the past made teaching research much easier because something in print had gone through a review and editing process before it was ever printed. Students and teachers could readily accept the majority of printed material as credible without thinking too much about it. The Internet has made teaching research much more difficult because it has leveled the field in terms of credible and non-credible sources. Students do not differentiate between credible and non-credible sources because the Internet has no standard way of doing so. It would be easy to just limit students to scholarly databases, but that feels like forcing students to stay in my world rather than exploring theirs. So, I’ve adapted by teaching more technology literacy in my classes to help them evaluate the credibility of any potential source online.

    What are some of the benefits of joining a teachers association like the Kansas Association of Teachers of English for a new teacher?
    The best benefit for joining an association like the Kansas Association of Teachers of English (KATE) is that teachers realize that we are not alone in our stress and in our concerns. It gives teachers a network of dedicated professionals to meet, exchange ideas with, and stay connected to through places like our website, our Facebook page, and our annual conference. The annual KATE Conference takes place in late October, which is perfect timing. I always start the school year full of optimism and enthusiasm that this year will be the best year ever. However, the hopes of August quickly give way to the realities of October. By October I’ve noticed that we’re slower, a bit more weary, and not as full of hope and optimism. That’s when I reinvigorate my year with a trip to the KATE Conference. As a member of an organization like KATE, I know that I always have hardworking people to turn to whenever I need help or a bit of advice regarding a lesson in my classroom.

    What are some of your favorite activities to increase student involvement in your classroom?
    My classes focus a lot on the writing process. I had the English teachers who would assign an essay, wouldn’t say much about it until it was due, and then return the final draft three or four weeks later filled with red ink. That never made much sense to me, primarily because what was the point of all of my teacher’s work if there was nothing I could do to fix the issue on that draft? Instead, my students receive an essay assignment and then have multiple days in class dedicated to completing and discussing multiple drafts. It’s a friendly workshop atmosphere that encourages students to take responsibility for their work and help one another. They see me more as a coach and editor rather than a final judge. They learn by shaping the essay and ongoing discussions with me and their peers. By the time a final draft comes in, I have already worked with them on at least two other drafts. They have clear expectations going into the final draft and, most of the time, end up submitting a draft they are proud of without concern about the final numerical grade. Because of the communal atmosphere writing creates in my classroom, writing essays are usually one of my favorite activities.

    Do you have any advice for students who are preparing to begin their teaching careers?
    I always tell education students that their methods classes will prepare them for observations, observations will prepare them for student teaching, and student teaching will prepare them for the first minute of the first day of school. Nothing but experience will prepare them for what comes afterward. I warn them that they will often feel overwhelmed to the point of drowning, but the relative good news is that we all feel that way – we just learn how to deal with it over the years. In order to survive those first few years, future teachers must have three qualities: patience, flexibility, and a good sense of humor. We all make mistakes; the trick is to accept it, admit fault right away, and keep the damage to a minimum. Future teachers should also be very selective in their first position. Never, as I did, accept a position that opens up in the middle of the school year – chances are that there are good reasons why the teacher would be willing to break his/her contract to quit. Future teachers should also make sure their new position has a district-wide mentoring program that pairs the first-year teacher with an experienced teacher. Future teachers should learn the word “no” when it comes to committees and sponsoring student organizations. We have enough to adjust to in trying to balance a new professional career and still maintaining a healthy personal life away from school without having to worry about a packed after school schedule. Future teachers should get involved in their profession. Join a professional organization like the National Council of Teachers of English or KATE, or whatever organization contributes to the development of standards and curricula for their content area. These organizations are typically filled with teachers who care about their discipline and are shaping the future of our field. For those with the patience, the flexibility, and the sense of humor to make it through the first year, teaching as a career is a wonderful and rewarding experience.

    We thank John for his time and for sharing his expertise with us. You can learn more about his experience on his LinkedIn.

    Read about how to become a teacher in Kansas.

    Interview with Krista Gates, Saskatchewan French and Spanish Teacher

    We recently had the great fortune to interview Krista Gates, who has taught French Immersion Language Arts and Spanish to students in grades nine through twelve for over fifteen years. Krista attended the University of Regina and Concordia University, where she majored in French Education and Sociology, respectively. She also attended a certificate program in Mexico City at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and earned a certificate in Spanish at the Centro de Enseñanza Para Extranjeros. During the interview, Krista outlined the most common challenges she faces as an educator as well as the greatest rewards. Finally, she shared the strategies she uses to make her French and Spanish classes relevant to her students’ lives.

    krista-gatesPlease describe what a typical day is like for you as an educator:
    I am a mother of two beautiful children. After taking my kids to daycare and school, and a quick coffee drive-thru stop, I arrive at the school building forty minutes prior to the bell. My mornings and days are quite busy and hectic. It’s a go-go-go schedule, but I absolutely love my teaching career! During my mornings, I teach French Immersion Language Arts 9 and 11. Before lunch I teach beginners Spanish 10. I supervise our school during the lunch hour with two teaching colleagues. After the lunch hour, I teach Intermediate Spanish 20/30. For the last class of the day, I have prep time where I am usually marking student work, prepping for the next day or helping students with class questions or homework.

    What aspects of your job are the most challenging and how do you overcome them?
    I have wanted to become a teacher since I was five years old. When I became a teacher, it became apparent to me that not only am I a teacher, I am also a counselor, nurse, and mom. As a teacher, you have to be prepared for anything that may be thrown your way. At times it can become a challenging balancing act. I work with some students who have unfair disadvantages in the home setting. I find myself making toast in the mornings for those students who do not eat at home. I also find myself giving guidance to students who are not receiving guidance and the support they need from home.

    What do you most enjoy about being a teacher?
    I enjoy working with my students every day because not only are they learning from me, I am also
    learning from them. I enjoy finding new ways, materials and teaching techniques to help my students become better learners.

    Learning a foreign language can be a challenging task for some learners. How do you make your French and Spanish lessons relevant to your students’ lives and emphasize the importance of learning another language?
    As a language teacher, I am always encouraging my students to embrace new languages, cultures and to travel. To learn a language involves motivation and devotion from both the teacher and the student. Students’ life experiences can be incorporated while learning a new language. It can be a motivating factor for students to learn a new language when they are interested and invested in the learning process.

    Last year, I began incorporating technology into my classroom. I made the best of technology and encouraged my students to bring and use their devices in the classroom for educational purposes. I used a blog for the first time, showcasing my student’s achievements and work. I encouraged my students to use Movie Maker, Glogster and YouTube. While learning a language, they can also demonstrate their learning.

    Recently, I have used Skype classroom and found other teachers from around the world wanting to collaborate in an innovative and safe educational manner. My students have been in contact with various classrooms in Honduras. It has been inspiring to see the students use what they have learned in Spanish with someone from a Latin-speaking country!

    What advice can you give to recent graduates who are preparing to start a teaching career?
    Teaching is definitely a rewarding career, yet also a lifelong learning process. Be bold and try new teaching techniques. Make teaching connections with your students’ learning objectives. Ask yourself “What do you want your students to learn? How will they obtain this learning? What tools and methods will they need?” Make connections with the curriculum and link it with your students’ daily lives. Encourage new learning experiences for students and use engaging activities to keep your students motivated. Build your students’ confidence by encouraging them to be the best they can be. Have a teacher mentor to help guide and support you during the most positive and challenging times. And most importantly, have fun and take the time to learn from your students.

    We thank Krista for sharing her foreign language teaching insight. Connect with Krista via Twitter @kristabgates.

    Interview with Yee-Chen Robson, Past President of FCTA

    Past President Yee-Chen Robson of the Florida Chinese Teachers Association (FCTA) recently provided us with a few of her insights and experiences working as a Chinese language educator and professional with the FCTA. Her guiding advice is particularly useful for aspiring educators wishing to implement technology in the classroom and teach subjects traditionally perceived as difficult to students.

    What led you to become a teacher?
    I enjoyed reading and learning new things. I also enjoyed working with children. Teaching children is very rewarding. Watching children’s language level grow was an amazing experience to me.

    How do you recommend that foreign language educators use technology to connect with students?
    Communicating with students or parents with group e-mail is very effective. Developing a website to post your class news, lessons and assignments is very beneficial. Guiding students to use online learning/studying tools is also helpful for students.

    What methods do you recommend Chinese language educators use to overcome obstacles in teaching difficult dialects?
    Isolate the difficulties; focus on one part of them each time. Observe the students to know their needs, then give individual guidance as needed.

    Can you share with us some of the ways in which you encourage your students to immerse themselves in the Chinese culture?
    Students, parents, and I made a huge Chinese New Year celebration each year. Students made short plays and Chinese dances. They also played Chinese music or sang Chinese songs. We shared Chinese cooking whenever we could.

    If you weren’t teaching Chinese, what other subject(s) do you think you might teach?
    Hands-on arts and crafts.

    Would you be willing to share any further advice to with aspiring educators thinking about concentrating in the Chinese language?
    I was the president of FCTA and I would like to share it with educators. Please go to
    www.fcta99.com to view the information. The FCTA is a non-profit organization. A group of volunteer teachers worked very hard to make the Chinese level 1 to level 4 Curriculum available for Chinese schools/educators. We also arranged a Chinese competition every year for all Chinese learners. We are seeking local, district or statewide support to make the Chinese curriculum and the Chinese competition to be beneficial to more students and teachers.

    Read about how to become a teacher in Florida.