Getting to Know You – Rachael

Part of what I’m loving about my time at GSE is getting to know other people in my program.  Between classes and activities sponsored outside of school, I’ve been doing a good job (at least I think so) of getting to know my peers.  We are a pretty interesting bunch, if I do say so myself.

That being said, I’d like to introduce you to my new series, “Getting to Know You.”  I will be interviewing different people in the TESOL program at GSE and sharing what I find with you here.  That way, you can get a better idea of the type of students that are currently in the TESOL program with me.

First up is Rachael.  I met Rachael on my first day in Approaches to Teaching English.  She’s a ton of fun and I really like working with her.  Read below to find out more about my classmate!

What is your name?  Rachael

Where is your hometown?  I grew up all around Florida, but I now consider my hometown to be Gainesville since I believe home is where your mom is.

Where did you go to undergrad?  I went to the University of Florida (also in Gainesville) and received my B.A. in Linguistics in 2011.

Have you ever taught English before?  Yes, I taught English in Anyang, South Korea for two years and loved it! I primarily taught kindergarteners in a private English school with a Canadian-based curriculum, though I also taught one afternoon or evening class per semester to 8-12 year old learners with varying degrees of English proficiency.

At the zoo with her kindergarteners.
At the zoo with her kindergarteners.

Why did you decide to get a Master’s in TESOL?  During undergrad, I focused almost exclusively on theoretical linguistics (phonology, morphology, syntax, etc.), so after teaching for a couple years, I decided I really wanted a basis in education, specifically ESL.  I also wanted to work with a wider range of learners and contexts, and I knew getting a Master’s would open me up to more opportunities in the field, including research, work in university settings, and teaching training.

What made you want to come to GSE?  The TESOL program at GSE seems to me to be a great mix of applied linguistics and practical teacher development. Most of what we learn in the program is grounded in Second Language Acquisition theory, but it is presented and discussed in a very applicable “what should we do in the classroom?” sort of way. I appreciate that the program has mandatory core courses in linguistics as well as practice teaching.

What do you want to do after you graduate?  Immediately after graduation, I would like to become an English Language Fellow for the U.S. State Department. I am interested in TESOL as a form of diplomacy, and I would love the chance to represent the United States abroad.

Enough about school, tell me something fun you like to do outside of class!  I recently got a bicycle here, and I’m loving biking around Philly, specifically on the scenic Schuylkill River Trail. If you’re considering moving here for Penn GSE, I highly recommend you invest in a bike! Philly also has a great food scene, and I’m enjoying eating my way around the city.

What do you think of Philadelphia?  I have only been here a few months, but I’m quickly falling in love with Philadelphia. It’s definitely a “big city” (apparently the fifth biggest in the United States), but it feels very livable to me. The people are friendly, the streets are easy to navigate, and I don’t find it overwhelming at all. That being said, if you like quaint little towns, maybe it’s not the place for you.

Do you have any advice/comments/words of wisdom for prospective students?  Related to the last question, when you’re considering where to come for grad school, I’d recommend not just taking into account what you think is the “best” school, but also where you want to be for the next several years of your life. A big reason I chose Penn GSE is because I was fairly confident I’d be happy living in Philadelphia. By contrast, I talked to someone in my program recently that told me she came here mainly because Penn is an Ivy League school, however she is feeling a bit overwhelmed living here; she wishes she had gone to school in a smaller college town. So my advice is to consider carefully not just the school itself, but the greater community in which you’ll be living – it could really make or break your grad school experience.

A picture of a student and Rachael together when another teacher's Pomeranian visited her class.
A picture of a student and Rachael together when another teacher’s Pomeranian visited her class.

Be on the lookout for my next “Getting to Know You” post.  And thanks so much to Rachael who agreed to be my first interview!


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