Inside USD

TESOL Teaches Power of English Language

Monday, May 21, 2012

Christina Andrade knows the ABCs of the English language, but her excellence as a teacher committed to helping non-English speaking students master it, comes from adopting the 123s.

“One, as a teacher in a multicultural classroom, it’s imperative to have knowledge of all of my students’ cultures and not be blind to it,” she said. “Two, know that students are more interested and more engaged in material that directly relates to their culture; and three, have students shape their own learning; have them make some rules. If they’re not followed then they’re breaking their own rules.”

Andrade, who graduates May 26 from the University of San Diego with a master’s degree in TESOL, Literacy and Culture in the School for Leadership and Education Sciences, said the takeaways are part of an “educational base” she received in the 30-unit program.

Andrade (pictured, top right) entered with ample experience as an English as a Foreign/Second Language instructor, including a stint in Australia, but USD’s degree program provided professional growth.

Serving as an ESL instructor at USD’s English Language Academy (ELA), she taught courses to a classroom comprised mostly of Middle East students, something she’d not experienced before as a teacher. “Making English Language Instruction Culturally Relevant and Engaging for Arab Students” was the title of her presentation to education leaders and teachers at USD’s ninth annual Action Research Conference.

“It was a chance to do culturally relevant teaching and to do pedagogy through that culture,” Andrade said. “I learned a lot by reading books, doing research and by working with the students.”

Teaching the Teachers

Mention Andrade’s name to Sarina Chugani Molina, USD’s TESOL program coordinator and SOLES assistant professor, and she beams.

“If you watch her teach, you’ll see she has the charisma, command of the students and employs the creativity and methodology she’s learned in the classroom,” Molina said. “Christina has been an assistant on some of my research projects. She consumes literature and she knows how it fits together and helps come up with a theory for what’s best.”

Students reciprocate their appreciation of Molina (pictured, left) through her inspired work ethic, leadership and mentoring capabilities.

“If you’re looking for a TESOL program that has well-structured coursework and solid teacher training, this is it,” said Hyun Jung Joo, a 2010 graduate. “It required hard work and self-discipline, but once you complete it, you’re ready to face the real world.”

Said Rhonda Brown, a 2008 graduate and current ESL middle school teacher: “I think Dr. Molina is a valuable asset because she relates well to students and truly is interested in their success as teachers. She goes beyond the call of duty to support and offer useful advice to students. I still keep in touch via email and she’s always quick to respond with answers about current research or just to check in on me on a personal level.”

ELA Academic Coordinator Deborah Sundmacher has worked with Molina when the latter was a student instructor and now as a USD colleague. The relationship between TESOL and ELA has been mutually beneficial.

“She provides us recommendations and they’re spot on. We know we’re getting someone who is well-trained, can move right in and take over,” Sundmacher said. “Sarina teaches students to come out of the program with a passion for teaching and the ability to self-reflect on the type of teaching they’re doing, to be flexible and change to the needs of the students.”

Molina earned an EdD in Leadership Studies at USD, and her resume, including undergraduate and graduate degrees in East Asian Languages and Literature from the University of Hawai’i, is lengthy. Born and raised in Japan to parents from India, Molina’s primary language of school instruction was English. That development led her, at 16, to begin teaching English.

“I’ve always been very passionate about it,” Molina said. “Back then, in Japan, if you spoke English, you could teach it. That was the only qualification. But I realized in my undergraduate and graduate degrees how much I still didn’t know about the population you’re teaching. It’s very intense, but you want TESOL students to leave the program feeling well-grounded as to why you do what you do.”

Her dissertation research focused on teacher development and cultural competence through work with culturally and linguistically diverse students. Molina’s teaching expertise includes ELA courses and classes at Palomar and MiraCosta community colleges. Molina helped develop a TESOL Certificate program. She teaches TESOL degree courses and a class for credential students in SOLES’ Department of Learning and Teaching.

Predictably, many TESOL students, who are required to do 90 hours of observation and teaching to graduate, said Molina’s invitation to observe her classes enhanced their own development.

“When I came into the program, one of my earliest teaching influences was Sarina. She was working on her EdD, but by observing her classes and seeing her teach at Palomar, I learned how to apply it,” said Francisco Herrera, a 2005 graduate who is now assistant director for San Diego State University’s pre-MBA program.

Andrade said Molina’s invitation to her came before she applied to the program. “When I was looking into TESOL programs, I spoke with Sarina and she invited me to come to her class a few days later,” Andrade said. “I did, and felt she really wanted to see if the program would be the right match for me, rather than me trying to fit their program. That meant a lot. I’ve never felt like I’m a number here.”

English Empowerment

The most important connection in a TESOL teaching program is to understand the power of the English language.

“It’s an incredible tool for communication around the globe,” Molina said. “I want our students to come away knowing it’s not just about teaching English — it’s a leg up, it’s a tool. It’s something we can provide to others so that they, too, can engage in the global conversation.”

SOLES’ Dean, Paula Cordeiro, is passionate about the global power of English. She earned a TESOL master’s in 1979, served as an ESL instructor at community colleges in Massachusetts and Texas and as an ESL coordinator in Venezuela and Spain.

Coupling her background with SOLES’ requirement that students must complete an international experience to graduate, Cordeiro said TESOL is effective and essential.

“It tends to have students who want an adventure, who have fascination with people, a fascination with language and a fascination with culture,” Cordeiro said. “I think the world needs more people like that.”

Taking TESOL to Greater Heights

Recent U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics predict “significant employment growth” for TESOL educators. The Occupational Outlook Handbook indicates opportunities are favorable in states with large populations of residents with limited English skills, including California.

Brown’s TESOL degree has not only earned her a teaching job, but she also teaches evening college course and does online work for ESL student assessment.

“Despite the many recent cutbacks in education, I find I’m very employable because of my degree,” Brown said. “The education director at the college I work at has her master’s in TESOL. I felt it was a hiring point because of the common interest and the fact that USD is held in high regard for their education programs.”

Joo (pictured, left) has taken her education aspirations to a new level. Following graduation, she went back to Korea and taught academic writing classes for a year. She’s now in a PhD TESOL program at Ohio State University, but credits USD for putting her on the right path.

“My master’s degree opened the door to a job opportunity and allowed me to get positive feedback from my employers,” she said. “It provided a solid foundation and encouraged me to look for depth of knowledge.”

That depth was found in her USD action research project — with guidance from SOLES Associate Professors Noriyuki Inoue and Reyes Quezada — and was her favorite aspect of the degree program.

“She did a wonderful job teaching Idiomatic Expressions to ESL students,” Molina said about Joo’s project. “There’s a definite gap between what students learn in a classroom and what they hear and learn outside of it. They know how to write and read and the academic stuff, but learning also demands going outside, interacting with others, learning the social language.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

The TESOL, Literacy and Culture master’s program is admitting students for Fall 2012. For more information, contact Anne Mumford at (619) 260-7988 or

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