Kate Adams

News & Features

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kate Adams was a Distinguished Student Speaker at the Graduate Recognition Ceremony of Fall 2013. She completed her M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language this past summer. She currently teaches English to international students at the Illinois Institute of Technology and is a writer and editor in educational publishing. 

I entered graduate school with a real need. I'd spent the last five years in the corporate world of educational publishing, feeling like we were using the same recycled strategies in our textbooks. I wanted to edit and write with the confidence that comes with expertise. I wanted to learn content. I wanted to stay up all night writing papers. I wanted to be that engaged and inspired.  

Did the Teaching English as a Second Language program fulfill my needs and expectations? I came home from those night classes and lay awake too engaged to sleep. I woke up and immediately applied what I learned to my work in the publishing world. With the content came confidence and creativity. 

Was I challenged? Did I spend all of one spring break, trying to figure out what constituted an allophone and a phoneme in Mongolian? Yes. Thank you, Dr. Nitihirigeza. And that paper I wanted to spend all night on. It's how I learned about the Chinese language; the language the majority of my students now speak. I found real value in the opportunity to do independent research, research that informs my teaching now.

Was I encouraged? Among the list of many things, I was encouraged to enter my paper in the student symposium, to apply to a PhD program, to research and present at an Illinois state conference. To take my time going through the program, to read all the books on the recommended list, to drop by any time, to call my professor at home, to be a part of a community of learners, to go not just where my head, but where my heart lead me. 

Was I afforded opportunity? I had the opportunity and honor of presenting at a conference with my teacher Dr. Stone and a fellow student this past winter. Then Northeastern got me in touch with an internship opportunity. The interviewer had attended the conference and seen the presentation. She hired me for the internship and then a teaching position. 

So yes, my degree did lead to a job. But what I've come back to most in this job is not the content I learned. When posed with a problem, I find myself asking, "How would Dr. Bofman respond in this situation? What feedback would Dr. Trademan give to this student?" In fact, about halfway through the semester after focusing so much on being a good teacher, being prepared, asking myself after each class "How did I do? What do I need to do differently?" I felt the classroom dynamic was off. I thought back to something Dr. Stone has said, "I don't teach English. I teach students." And it hit me: It wasn't about me. It was about the students. "How did THEY do? What do THEY need?" Now the faculty here didn't teach this to me. They showed it to me. They embodied it. Thank you.