MA Alumni Spotlight: Helen Hobson
What are you currently doing?
I currently teach in the Intensive English Program at Kennesaw State University as a full time instructor. Our program has five levels in which we teach English for Academic Purposes. Not only do we have F1 visa students, but also a number of students who are residents or citizens who have decided to pursue higher education and need stronger academic English skills to be successful. If students complete our highest level, they receive a TOEFL waiver for state schools in Georgia. Each 8 week session, I teach a variety of different proficiency levels and skill areas. In addition to the IEP, I also teach private classes in the metro area.
I’m also becoming more involved in TESOL having presented at the international conference in Chicago in March 2018 and having served as a proposal reviewer for the 2019 conference here in Atlanta. I have also applied to serve on the Standards Professional Council for the organization.
What do you enjoy the most about your current position?
At KSU, our students come from very diverse backgrounds and have a wide range of academic interests, many having completed degrees in their home countries. This diversity creates high levels of interest and engagement in the classroom on the part of both students and teachers.
Given that our program is still relatively young, we are still in the process of revising and refining our curriculum, so there are opportunities to have a voice in the choice of materials and course sequencing. I have been able to move the program toward integrating skills and tying our content to more closely mirror that of a typical university classroom. The openness and collaboration in our department is very encouraging of professional growth
How did the Department of Applied Linguistics/ESL prepare you for this?
The Department of Applied Linguistic and ESL was fundamental in preparing me for my current position and for my wider involvement in the field of English language teaching.
Although I had taught ESL for a number of years in a variety of settings, I did not have the theoretical and methodological basis for the pedagogical decisions I made. Likewise, I was unaware of the fundamental nature of language itself and the importance of corpus linguistics in describing language. Having completed the program, I can support with theory and research the judgements I make in day-to-day interactions and assessment in the classroom with students. I also feel that my participation in larger curriculum and assessment discussions and decisions in our program is more credible given the strong base I received in the AL/ESL program.
The teaching assistantship I did in the IEP at Georgia State was also crucial in developing the skills for collaboration and openness to constructive feedback that have proved essential to my growth as a professional and my role in our department. In addition, the curricular base and design of the IEP provided a solid model of English for Academic Purposes that has guided me in helping our program alignment.
Lastly, my interactions with the professors and their passion for scholarship helped me gain the confidence to become more involved in the larger professional community of TESOL. I was accepted to present at the TESOL International Conference in Chicago in 2018, an example of how I feel well-prepared to interact in various roles as an English language learning specialist.
What are your long term goals?
My current position at KSU is amazing, so I don’t have plans to leave. We will most likely begin our CEA accreditation process in the next couple of years, and I know that all the theory and research from the GSU program will be invaluable. I hope to get more involved in leadership roles in the TESOL organization, in particular around advocacy for students from marginalized groups.
What do you miss most about GSU and the department?
I miss the incredible diversity of the GSU campus and its vibrant location downtown. Ebrik’s Coffee is hard to replicate! Because of the location of the Intensive English Program within the AL/ESL department, the bridge between theory and practice is dynamic. I miss the proximity to prominent scholars of language learning and teaching and being a part of discussions. I also miss the caring people; everyone in the department is truly committed to the success and well-being of the MA students
What advice would you give current UG students based on your experiences?
If you are thinking about teaching, get into the classroom as soon as you can as a volunteer. You will learn so much by observation. Go as often as you can and ask lots of questions. Take advantage of the practicum that you do and try to get a teaching assistantship. The IEP lecturers are phenomenal. Also take advantage of the openness and willingness of professors who are willing to mentor you. If you are interested in presenting or research, ask for help.