I could not imagine doing anything else besides teaching.
I am deeply interested in language change which occurs from generation to generation in the language acquisition process. I'm also interested in contact-induced change which occurs when speakers of two different languages try to communicate. As a trained linguist, my research focuses on bilingualism, child language acquisition, and sociolinguistic issues affecting a speech community.
English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers have one of the most challenging tasks in education: to help students of various linguistic backgrounds acquire spoken and written fluency with the English language. If the student is a native Spanish speaker, what happens to the Spanish grammar in the student's mind as they learn English grammar? Does one grammar replace the other? Do the grammars coexist separately, or do they mix? Will a student's English grammar ever come to match the fluency of the teacher? What is lost in the acquisition process? What is changed? These are the kinds of questions which really fascinate me.
I could not imagine doing anything else besides teaching. My study of languages has led me to some pretty wonderful life experiences. I've worked on an archaeology dig in Tuscany, unearthing an Etruscan village. I lived 20 feet from the crashing North Sea while I pursued a master's degree in Latin at a university in Scotland. And I made life-long friends through the Goethe Institut in Germany.
The majority our TESOL students work full-time and attend classes in the evenings. Because of their hectic schedules, they must be organized and disciplined individuals to be successful in our program. Our students enjoy working closely with speakers of other languages; they are able to develop rapport with their students, and they pride themselves on honing the linguistic skills it takes to work with ESL students effectively. If you're interested in a career as an ESL teacher, you must enjoy working independently and setting your own professional goals in the classroom. This is because in-service ESL teachers generally are the only specialists in their field in a given school.
Robert Painter, PhD
Assistant Professor; Director of TESOL Program