SOLES Alumna Spotlight Emily Meyers '15 MEd, TESOL, Literacy, and Culture

Emily Meyers
begin quoteThat is what this program does and this is why it is so valuable and unique. It opens up doors that you didn't even know existed and provides you with individuals that change your mindset for the better.

Please tell us about your degree program and why you chose it.

I am an alumna of the MEd TESOL program, which focuses on teaching English to speakers of other languages, literacy, and culture. I chose this program because of its emphasis on how culture and linguistic background plays a significant role in community college classrooms. Additionally, I was impressed by the 150-hour requirement that consisted of observation, teaching experience, research practice, and international experience. I wanted a program that balanced theory and practical experience, with a social justice and changemaking framework. Finally, while interviewing for graduate programs, I felt an immediate connection with Dr. Sarina Molina’s beliefs, values, and outlook of ESOL and knew from the moment we ended the interview that, if accepted, I would move across the country to study under her and the rest of the incredible professors within the TESOL program.

What is your fondest memory of being at USD and SOLES?

I have a very long list of my “fondest” memories at USD and, in particular, SOLES. The first one that comes to mind is a presentation that I had to do for my Language, Literacy, and Culture class with three of my peers during my first semester. The reason this is a fond memory is because it was the first time I had the chance to truly get to know my peers who were from China, Taiwan, and Japan. The experience of working so closely with others from different cultures and educational backgrounds set the tone for the rest of the program, as I learned so much from these individuals as they expanded my outlook on the teaching profession and the world in general. That is what this program does and this is why it is so valuable and unique. It opens up doors that you didn’t even know existed and provides you with individuals that change your mindset for the better.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus is in the Reading Room in MRH. I spent countless hours there writing papers, studying for tests, preparing projects, and finalizing my research. This room reminds me of Hogwarts (in Harry Potter) and provided me a safe haven amongst the stress and pressure of graduate school. It was common to sit there next to my peers for hours in silence, but feeling a strong sense of camaraderie and support nonetheless.

Who was your favorite SOLES professor or class?

I have to thank all of my professors at SOLES for contributing to the teacher I am today. Without their kindness, support, generosity with their time, and patience I would not be who I am or where I am today. In particular, Dr. Sarina Molina was my biggest advocate who pushed me when I needed to be pushed, questioned me when I needed to be questioned, and encouraged me when I needed encouragement. She is the most selfless person I have ever met, as she gives her all to her students without hesitation. Her practicum class provided me with tangible tools to be successful in my own classroom and a community of support that I needed to take my teaching practice to the next level. Additionally, Dr. Joi Spencer literally picked me up off the floor during the final stages of my action research project when I couldn’t move forward on my own. Her steadfast commitment to her students and patience in the explanation of research allowed me, and others, to regain the clarity and confidence in research needed to succeed past my own expectations.

How have you remained involved with USD and SOLES since graduation?

Following graduation, I was hired to teach the Pathway Seminar classes at USD to the incoming international freshman. These classes focused on cultural immersion and handling the expectations of university life. In the summer of 2017, I was asked to teach a month-long intensive English program to the professors of Tec de Monterrey in Mexico through USD’s English Language Academy. This focused on preparing the professors to earn a high score on the TOEFL exam and to feel confident in transitioning their classes to be taught in English. I also taught this class during the 2018 summer session.

As for the MEd TESOL program, I present my research annually in EDUC 580, which is the capstone class. I have also served as the teaching assistant in EDUC 540, which is the linguistics class. Additionally, I have presented on English as an International Language in EDUC 548, which is the special topics class. I have also been a panelist during the annual research symposium for the past three years. Furthermore, I have provided support to the TESOL graduate students by serving as a mentor teacher, university supervisor, and writing consultant for the past three years. Finally, I have been asked to lead workshops for the SOLES graduate students on action research through the new writing center. I am very excited, and will continue these workshops during the next school year. Most notably, I was one of the professors for EDUC 549P in the spring of 2018, which is the practicum in TESOL course. For this work, I won the “Dean’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching” award.

If you could offer a current USD/SOLES student advice, what would it be?

My biggest piece of advice that I tell all of my USD students is to trust in yourself, the process, and those around you. You will succeed, but in order to get there you have to relinquish control every now and again. There will be time where you doubt the work you are doing, how you are doing it, and what it truly means. During these times it is important to take a step back and look at the big picture. School is preparing you, it is not defining you. The rest of your life begins when you step across stage with your diploma in hand, so until then take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to you. Learn from everyone around you, as each person has something to teach you. In turn, you will also teach others - your peers, your professors, and yourself.

Tell us a little about your journey since your graduation.

In addition to my work at USD, I have consistently taught at MiraCosta Community College and Southwestern Community College since graduation. For MiraCosta’s credit classes, I initially taught beginning writing to non-native speakers, but now teach reading and vocabulary, speaking and listening, and grammar to non-native speakers. Additionally, through MiraCosta’s English Language Institute, I teach grammar for TOEFL and a writing workshop class. At Southwestern, I initially taught basic college writing and editing English classes, but now teach college composition classes.

In addition to teaching, I have presented the research I did at USD, amongst other topics, at the Los Padres CATESOL Conference, San Diego CATESOL Regional Conference, and the Los Angeles CATESOL Conference.

Furthermore, I volunteer as the Executive Director for a non-profit organization called Trek to Teach, which sends English teachers to the Himalayas of Nepal. Trek to Teach focuses on increasing the literacy rate of Nepali children in rural villages, thus providing more opportunities for these children to move onto higher education, secure lucrative jobs, and provide for themselves, their family, and their village. In addition to education, we devote our time and resources to infrastructure projects to ensure that these children have safe buildings, clean and abundant water sources, and libraries.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career and your career goals?

My SOLES education has given me the tools, confidence, and drive to seek out opportunities where I can make a positive, lasting impact. I learned the value and importance of self-reflection through my time at USD and have brought this strength to my teaching practice, my presentation and workshops, as well as my work at Trek to Teach. I learned humility and empathy while being a SOLES graduate student, which has given me the ability to connect with individuals on a deeper level than ever before. I know I am a much more effective educator because of my experience, education, and continued involvement with the SOLES community. In the future, I wish to earn my doctorate and become a full-time university professor so that I can support the next generation of educators as they become the changemakers of the future.


Amanda Gonzales
(619) 260-4539


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