Bridging the Language Barrier Through TESOL
Katie (Zook) Bennett ’13 is putting TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) into practice through her job at The Language Company (TLC) at Indiana University South Bend. There, she teaches English to international students and prepares them for admission to the American university of their choice. In the process, she’s helping them bridge the language barrier through classes in grammar, reading and writing.
The Spanish major and TESOL minor is living out the call on her life – a call she felt on a mission trip in high school. She remembers traveling to Mexico after taking two years of Spanish and quickly discovering she had much more to learn. While she was there, she met a young man who took time to teach her more about the Spanish language.
“He wanted so badly to communicate with me,” she remembers. “He was building a bridge with me, and it struck my heart. God told me that was what He wanted me to do. He wanted me to build bridges for people.”
Sensing a call to teach English to non-native speakers, Bennett began looking for TESOL degree programs. At the time, Bethel did not offer a TESOL major.
“I was torn because I knew God was calling me to Bethel,” she remembers. “But I knew I needed to study TESOL. I didn’t know how both could happen.”
But God knew how. It was during Bennett’s senior year in high school that Bethel announced the addition of a TESOL minor, which she chose to pursue alongside a Spanish major.
“I just can’t replace the learning experience I had here,” says Bennett. “And I cannot say enough about how supportive and influential [professors] Eric and Lisa Oglesbee have been in my journey as a teacher.”
Bethel’s TESOL program – which has now grown to include a major – is built around a practicum where students actually solo teach a TESOL class to speakers of other languages. Bennett’s practicum took her to Alcoy, Spain, where she taught children during the day and adults during the evening at an English camp run by missionaries. Most of the students were intermediate level English speakers.
“My practicum was extremely valuable,” Bennett says. “I learned how to be flexible and to write lessons. The program I work in now is very fast-paced and intense, and that experience helped prepare me for that.”
Currently, Bennett is in the process of applying to Azusa Pacific University’s online Master of Arts in TESOL program and hopes to later pursue a doctorate in psycholinguistics.
The TESOL major at Bethel equips students with theoretical knowledge and practical application, preparing them with skills and confidence they need to step right into the classroom to teach English to speakers of other languages upon graduation. The double-major friendly program works particularly well with intercultural studies, English and writing and Christian ministries. In addition to Spain, students have completed practicums in Lithuania and locally in South Bend.