Nov. 9, 2012
Professor teaches English language learning techniques in Argentina
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Nissa Ingraham, assistant professor of professional education at Northwest Missouri State University, recently shared the University’s teaching models and techniques with English Language Learning students and instructors from around the world.
She applied for the Fulbright Exchange Program, which offers educators the opportunity to exchange teaching positions with a teacher from another country, in 2010. As a result, she was invited to the Federación Argentina de Asociaciones de Profesores de Inglés (FAAPI), an English teachers conference in Argentina.
She traveled to Argentina for the conference in September and presented about ELL to 800 educators alongside teaching professionals from Ireland, England and Canada.
“I presented on some of the research I did on the ethno-linguistic vitality of a teacher and how crossing between two languages can help bridge the gap for students if the teacher speaks the majority and the minority language in the area,” Ingraham said. “For example, Northwest’s ELL teachers – if they are bilingual and there is just one minority language spoken in the classroom – are able to converse and talk directly with those families, and be a liaison between the institution and the other culture that is represented inside the school.”
In addition to being a spokesperson for Northwest’s teaching models, Ingraham became a representative of America’s education system as a whole. As the only American presenter at the conference, Ingraham spoke with educators eager to hear about America’s system of education. They were particularly interested in the federal and state standard assessments.
“Missouri has had standards and grade level expectations and the MAP assessment for years now, whereas they have not gotten to that level yet,” Ingraham said. That way, all the students are getting the same information, and that’s something that’s lacking in Argentina based on their comments. But that was intriguing to them, and spurred a lot of conversation points.”
The two-week excursion was an opportunity for Ingraham to exchange language instruction ideas with educators from the around the world. Sometimes she shared new ideas, and other times she learned some. This was true when she presented at Instituto de Lenguas Vivas, one of Argentina’s oldest educational institutions that exclusively trains language teachers. Similar to Horace Mann Laboratory School at Northwest, this institution also offers a lab school. Besides extending past eighth grade to offer high school education, the lab school differs from Horace Mann in its language infusion process, which offers students a complete multi-lingual education, Ingraham said.
“At Horace Mann, we have a well-rounded curriculum that offers special programs such as music, art, band, physical education and a Spanish class they get twice week for 30 minutes, but it’s not an infusion,” Ingraham said. “The students are not learning science, social studies, math in another language, which is what they are doing in this lab school down there.”
While all of the educators Ingraham interacted with spoke English fluently, a few sight-seeing expeditions required her to use Spanish, which she formerly taught. Since she was asked to speak at the FAAPI conference as a specialist, her trip was funded by the Argentinian universities and the American embassy in Argentina.
Ingraham said she was glad to represent her country, her language and Northwest.
“I was very proud to be able to represent Northwest,” she said. “All of the information I was able to give about our program here was very well received down there. It made my job so much easier and so pleasant because we’re doing such great things here.”
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