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ELIZABETH JENNINGS, Spain, 2018-2019

Fulbright Year: 2018-2019
Country: Spain
Proposal Type: English Teaching Assistantship
UGA Undergraduate Major: Spanish and World Language Education
Graduation Date: Spring 2018
Hometown: Marietta, Georgia

Elizabeth Jennings’ first visit to Spain came in 2017 as part of a study abroad program in Valencia, and now she’ll return there as an English teacher at two different schools as part of her Fulbright experience.

“I wish to learn more about the Spanish culture, gain teaching experience, and transfer cultural knowledge and language pedagogy into teaching Spanish and ESOL at the high-school level,” says Elizabeth. “I hope to teach my students the value in learning a language to connect with other people in the way I experienced while abroad.”

Elizabeth worked the last school year as a student teacher at nearby East Jackson Comprehensive High School and in 2017 worked as a student teacher for pre-k students at Oglethorpe Elementary School in Athens. She also was as a paraprofessional with the Physical Activity and Learning Program and a volunteer ESOL tutor and translator at Clarke Central High School.

In her efforts to make English easier to understand and appreciate, Elizabeth used some interesting ideas from her toolbox.

“I witnessed how musical techniques of repetition and rhyming helped students make meaning of the environment around them,” says Elizabeth. “After a semester of singing nursery rhymes, we took a field trip to the petting zoo where students recognized the animals from the songs they learned in class…I plan to incorporate song as a vehicle for language learning at the secondary level, since it can be used to teach grammar inductively, aiding in memory recall.”

While in Spain, Elizabeth plans to employ other methods to help her students (and others) become more comfortable with their new language.

“Outside of school, I plan to set up English conversation exchanges in which students can meet to discuss special topics, such as current events and relevant issues in society,” she says. “I remember learning so much, not just about Spanish, but the world around me and current issues affecting society through participating in Spanish language exchanges throughout my college experience. I would like to provide my students with the same opportunity to meet to share their opinions and learn from different perspectives.”

Elizabeth says she’s eagerly anticipating the opportunity for “meeting new people and exploring the world on my own.”

“When we explore the world, we learn about ourselves and others,” she says. “We become more reflective in our daily lives and become more aware of the subtlety of human interaction and communication and how language is influenced by culture. I am excited to work in a department with other teachers from whom I can learn and grow. I cannot wait to experience the world of education from a global perspective, by learning a new system of education and a different teaching culture.

“Also, one of my favorite aspects of teaching is fulfilling the role of a co-constructor of knowledge. In other words, it is not just about teaching at students but rather learning with them and from them. We never truly stop learning.”

At the conclusion of her Fulbright year, Elizabeth says she’ll return to the United States to teach Spanish and/or ESOL and plans to eventually return to school for a master’s degree in TESOL to deepen her understanding of second language acquisition and dual language immersion programs.

“I have a variety of interests within the field of language education, some of which include learning more about language acquisition in children vs. adults and how to teach language to different age and developmental levels,” she says.