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Language and Learning

Cassandra Rood
May 9, 2019

New program at UMD supports international connections.

It’s the summer of 2018 and junior from Cambridge, Minn., Kassandra Rood is working as a teacher’s aide at a school in Cartago, Costa Rica. Her students are seventh to 11th graders, and some actually speak proficient English. One of her seventh grade students doesn't speak much at all. “She went to a public school beforehand, and she didn't know that much English so she was really afraid to talk to me,” Kassandra said.

Kassandra with her seventh-grade class at Josè Figueres Bilingual School.

Kassandra with her seventh-grade class at Josè Figueres Bilingual School.

Like the student, Kassandra has limited Spanish-speaking skills, so the two formed a bond. By speaking and interacting with one another, the student began to warm up to Kassandra and the English language. “By the end of the six weeks, you could not get her to stop talking,” Kassandra said. “It was a good experience to see her blossom like that.”

Kassandra’s ninth grade students were curious about American life. After class they would crowd around her in the front of the room to ask questions. “A lot of them asked about the food we eat and why we drive everywhere instead of walk places,” Kassandra said. “That was cool because it really made me think about our culture and how we are perceived.”

Kassandra, a teaching communication arts & literature major, “loves the connection” of teaching abroad and wants to continue after college. “The bilingual aspect for students is really important to me,” Kassandra said. “Having their home language and then also having a second language is really important to brain development.”

Sarah McElroy

Sarah McElroy

She wants to teach in South Africa, Kenya, or Thailand where some of her friends currently are teaching. To pursue this dream she will enroll in UMD’s TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate program.

About TEFL

Starting fall 2019, UMD students can earn a TEFL certificate, a 13-credit program, with all but one class taught online. The certificate was designed for students who want to teach the English language abroad.

“The TEFL certificate is an internationally recognized credential,” Alex Seydow, an instructor in the teaching English program said. “Jobs and businesses in other countries, whether a private organization or a school setting, will often hire someone with a TEFL certificate and undergraduate degree.”

Sarah McElroy, a freshman English major from Peoria, Illinois, is taking classes in fall 2019 to prepare for the TEFL certificate. She admits she has never been outside of the Midwest. “All of my summer vacations were in the Boundary Waters where it was all pine trees and lakes.”

That will change soon for Sarah. She is planning a trip this summer to Europe with a friend. The two will spend two months seeing several countries and most likely will learn more than a few words in other languages.

The TESOL minor

The TESOL & Multilingual Education minor is 21 credits and is designed for teaching English to speakers who are not residing in their home country. Some of the required courses include Introduction to Linguistics and Language Policy and Education. It’s also for students who want to go abroad to teach.

"We wanted to offer a program for students in the teacher preparation programs," Alex said. "The percentage of English learners in the school system is only growing. Right now, almost one in four public school students are classified as English learners."

Alex is excited for the new programs because they complement UMD’s mission to prepare students to thrive as lifelong learners and globally engaged citizens.

Learn more about the TESOL and TEFL programs.

More about the Department of Education.

Top photo: Kassandra Rood at a crater in Costa Rica.