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English as Second Language Program at Juniata Features International Experience

(Posted August 31, 2004)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Almost all public schoolteachers squeeze in professional development classes during their summer vacation, but few take a trip to South America to do so. However, that's exactly what a dozen English as Second Language teachers did as they explored the culture of Ecuador in a program sponsored by Juniata College.

"The experience was not just travel to another country, but also a real immersion experience in the local culture," says Elizabeth Smolcic, director of Juniata's Intensive English Program. "Each of the teachers in the program stayed with a different Ecuadorean family and the meals provided by the program were culturally correct."

Juniata is one of the only colleges in the country to offer an English as Second Language certificate program that combines international experience and hands-on classroom experience while overseas.

Twelve teachers from school districts across Pennsylvania (as well as schools in Ohio and New Jersey) participated in the four-week program at the University of Otavalo, in Otavalo, Ecuador, a city of about 25,000 about two hours north of the capitol city of Quito. "I selected Juniata's program because I knew it would be rigorous and challenging and I knew that I'd learn more through Juniata's program," says Kim McElhatten, an ESL teacher with Spring Cove School District in Roaring Spring, Pa. "Juniata's program is a model for other universities and colleges."

Juniata created the program this spring to serve the requirements of recent Pennsylvania legislation that has mandated that all teachers within the state who teach ESL classes must earn an ESL Program Specialist Certificate by September 2004. Teachers who hold a Pennsylvania Instructional I or II certificate can take Juniata's courses just to earn an ESL Program Specialist Certificate or they can enroll to earn the certificate and college credit. The 12-credit program combines online instruction with several workshop-style weekend classes, an approach designed to allow teachers from across the state to complete the program.

Accompanied by Juniata staff Tammy Hertel, assistant professor of Spanish; Prudence Ingerman, senior instructor in the Intensive English program; and Smolcic, the visiting teachers attended classes and workshops in the morning and spent afternoons teaching to Ecuadorean schoolchildren.

"One of the great things about this program is the opportunity to learn the classroom theory and then being able to immediately apply in the classroom," Smolcic says.

"I believe all ESL teachers should have the experience of going to a place where they don't speak the language and the culture is different," says Catherine Carbaugh, an ESL teacher with the Fulton County school district. "Because of this experience, I will be able to understand my students' frustrations at cultural differences and better understand the desire to want to blend in."

The 12 participants in the Ecuador program returned to the Juniata campus Aug. 7 and 8 to complete the requirements for the state ESL certificate. The two courses needed for completion are "Diversity in Education: School, Family and Community" and "Building a Professional Community of ESL Teachers." Teachers who hold a Pennsylvania Instructional I or II certificate can take Juniata's courses just to earn an ESL Program Specialist Certificate or they can enroll to earn the certificate and college credit.

To apply for this program, write the Intensive English Program, Juniata College, Oller Center for Peace and International Programs, 1700 Moore St., Huntingdon, PA 16652, or call (814) 641-3183.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.