Grateful Student Finds New Perspectives in LA

Mar 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Conferences, Regional
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Kathleen Diaz

Kathleen Diaz

By KATHLEEN DIAZ

—The opportunity to attend the LA Regional CATESOL Conference was invaluable. I had never attended a CATESOL conference, let alone present at a conference. I am grateful to have received the Regional Conference Stipend from the CATESOL Education Foundation, which helped to fund my trip to Northridge from Merced in California’s Central Valley.

After the conference, I couldn’t wait to go back to my university, California State University, Stanislaus, on Monday to tell all my TESOL friends and teachers about the conference. I had become a changed TESOL thinker. The presentations I had attended opened my mind to different approaches to understanding TESOL or even composition for adult classes. In particular, the seminar by Dr. Neil J. Anderson was dynamic. He suggested that teachers would benefit from integrating bottom-up and bottom-down reading instruction into their curricula instead of focusing on one or the other. Until I heard Dr. Anderson speak at the conference, the word metacognition had not registered in my mind. I had heard the word mentioned, but the actual meaning never connected on a conscious level. Now I understand the importance of integrating explicit strategies into my classroom to improve my students’ knowledge of how to handle and work with a given assignment or activity. After attending his seminar, and discussing the issue with my TESOL friends and teachers back home, I have added an important goal to my list of goals as a teacher. It is to make sure that students have the proper strategies in place, or if they do not, to help them to build their “bag of strategies” to succeed in the academic environment. This added goal would not have been added if it weren’t for the conference. I am very grateful for this new knowledge.

Stipend awardee Kathleen Diaz in front of her presentation screen

Stipend awardee Kathleen Diaz presents at her first conference.

In addition to the knowledge I gained through the poster sessions, presentations, and discussion, I also learned new information through the people I met, specifically at my presentation. My presentation dealt with a research project that I initiated in Merced. I started an English class for a group of Mexican immigrants who were low proficient in English and low in their literacy skills. I focused my curriculum using the “natural approach” principles that were introduced to me by my adviser Dr. Stephen Stryker at Stanislaus State. I loved the approach because of its focus on lowering anxiety in the classroom, and on centering a curriculum based on content instead of form. For my population of students, the focus on content helped to decrease their anxiety because of the variables with their literacy. Throughout the semester, I collected data through their weekly writing and my own in-class field observations. The conclusion from the data showed that literacy and proficiency in English increased by the end of the semester. I wanted to present this at a conference, and I was honored to have been selected to present in LA. The people who attended my session were already working with this specific population, so our discussion during and after the session helped me to look at my curriculum from different perspectives. I made connections that I never would have established had I not been at this conference. I am extremely grateful to the CATESOL Education Foundation for supporting me with an experience that changed me to become a more efficient teacher in an area that I am deeply passionate about.

Kathleen Diaz is a graduate student at California State University, Stanislaus, studying for a master’s in English (TESOL concentration). She will complete her degree in Spring 2014.

 

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