Mariana Grassi (MA TESOL 2019) tells us about her what her time as a student was like and what
she has done since completing the program.
What led to your decision to study TESOL/Applied Linguistics at the graduate level?
After teaching EFL in Brazil for 7 years, I knew I needed to pursue a graduate's degree so I could keep myself a motivated and inspired professional. One of the components that made me choose the TESOL master's program at American University was its requirements along the program. It was extremely important to have had the chance to read, discuss, and reflect upon TESOL literature at the same time I was encouraged to critically assess curriculum and material design approaches in community-based projects. In other words, exploring different TESOL-related career paths was a real eye opening experience!
What was your time at AU like as a graduate student? What’s your favorite memory from your time here?
I simply loved my time as a graduate student! American University is a great community that offers a lot of opportunities! For instance, I was granted a graduate assistantship sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, so I had the opportunity to work in the TESOL office while I was an AU student. I have a lot of great memories from my time at AU.
As a graduate student, I found myself extremely inspired by the fact we had the opportunity to apply what we have learned from class discussions into practical assignments in all of the courses from the program!
Second Language Acquisition was a pleasantly challenging course in which I wrote a case study backed- up on SLA theories. It was when I first got interested in researching Beliefs on Language Learning. The research article I wrote for this course opened room for me to present in different annual events, such as WATESOL, TESOL International, and Fulbright Conference.
Technology for Language Teaching and Learning was a course in which we had the chance to critically discuss and explore how technology can be implemented in a language class. Additionally, we were put in our students' shoes when we developed our digital story projects. It was extremely engaging to negotiate meaning and make decisions while I was revising and adapting my own Teaching Philosophy into a digital story.
Curriculum and Materials Design was a life-changing course for me because it was the first time I actually explored other career paths within TESOL. It was extremely rewarding to be part of the amazing project between AU TESOL and Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in which I had the chance to design class resources for Carlos Rosario's students based on their curriculum objectives and exit skills. In addition, I was able to design and present a proposal pitch for a course I created completely from scratch.
As a graduate assistant, I loved organizing social and PD events for students, such as TESOL socials and the multiple workshops. It was a very productive moment in my life!
What did you do as soon as you graduated from AU TESOL program?
Academically speaking, I kept on presenting on TESOL-related PD events in the US. I had the chance to give a presentation on Learner's Language Beliefs in Study Abroad Programs on the 2019 Fulbright Conference. It was interesting to share my SLA research results with current Fulbright scholars and alumni from all over the world in an incredible 3-day experience! In addition, I co-presented with Dr. Vinogradova on her project about Multiliteracies and Digital Multimodal Composing as part of TESOL Teacher Development at WATESOL 2019. In addition, my poster presentation proposal was approved to be presented at TESOL International 2020. Last but not least, I was awarded a 2020 Betty Azar Travel Grant for Practicing ESL/EFL Teachers, a prestigious opportunity to be able to present at TESOL International Conferences.
Professionally speaking, I got accepted for the ESL teaching position at Georgetown Preparatory School during their 2019 Summer Camp, right after my commencement. It was an extremely enriching and incredibly fun teaching position! In addition, Community College of Baltimore County hired me as their ESL adjunct professor for an entire year. Working with their diverse student body was amazing! On top of that, I started working as an adjunct at ELTA, the ESL program at AU. Transitioning from an AU TESOL student to an AU ESOL adjunct made me feel even more proud to have been part of this amazingly diverse community. In the end, I was teaching in three different places, including a charter school, in less than ten months after my commencement.
Can you tell us what you are working on currently?
Interesting fact: I designed an entire online English course for beginners in Brazil from scratch when I was taking TESL-645. The COVID-19 pandemic broke out and remote teaching became a reality. Guess who is back in Brazil and finally had the guts to open an online teaching business in which students are offered project-based classes in English? Yeah!
I’m so proud to share I’ve created my own teaching project entitled The Journey Project (www.thejourneyproject.com.br). It's been extremely challenging and fun to be part of it! My students have been engaged in several activities that help them develop projects involving English communication skills, such as creating podcasts episodes or digital stories.
I have no doubt that the TESOL program has helped me cope with the challenges all teachers faced in the year of 2020. Adapting all my face-to-face curricula to an online context would have been a lot harder and stressful if I had not been part of TESOL, for sure.
What advice would you give to current AU TESOL students and recent graduates?
We are never alone: find a peer teacher to vent or talk to whenever you can. Teachers understand each other.
I simply loved my time as a graduate student! American University is a great community that offers a lot of opportunities!