The “Get to Know Us” series intends to give our audience and prospective students a closer look into who we are and what we do here at The Center for American Language & Culture.
Today’s post features Dr. Monica Jacobe, Director for the Center for American Language & Culture (CALC). Read below to see what she had to say about her ESL teaching experience, what she does, and what makes TCNJ’s ESL programming so unique.
What brought you to the field of ESL?
My work in ESL officially started on a campus that eliminated its ESL program and integrated multilingual writers into writing courses. I was a part of a team helping faculty face a huge demographic shift in their classrooms that they didn’t know how to deal with. At TCNJ, I was brought in to anchor the American Studies half of the ESLAS programming. I have a lot of pedagogical training, and some training in linguistic and language acquisition—but not enough to be called a linguist.
Those pieces seamed together in the program that was the beginning of this office: academic support for international students and the American Studies content that relates to my own academic history and research is what ultimately brought me here.
Do you have a most memorable teaching experience with ESL?
I was teaching a summer class that was not explicitly an ESL class, but it was an academic writing course. Of my 18 students, three of them were native English writers and the rest of them were international students or multilingual writers, if you will. On this particular summer day, the students who shared Korean as a home language were all talking to each other, and the students who shared Japanese as a home language were all talking with each other.
And on the other side of the room, my student from Oman was speaking with my Egyptian student in Arabic who was translating to my Albanian student in English, and then translating the English back to the student from Oman who’s listening wasn’t quite up to a level to really understand, particularly with the Albanian accent. The few American students I had didn’t really like each other so they weren’t speaking, and as a result there was hardly any English spoken in the entire room.
It was just a whole host of different languages coming together to make the coolest sound I had ever heard. We started that day talking about language, accent, and the like. It opened a lot of doors and windows for my students.
What does your role do for the Center for American Language & Culture (CALC)?
As director, I am chief strategist. All of the parts of CALC (students, curriculum, recruitment, etc.) are moving around, and I have got to watch them, look at them, and make sure they stay on track.
I’m naturally a builder.I like to make stuff and be the idea person who helps envision the structure and then build it.
That’s a lot of what I do. Other than that I send a lot of emails, answer a lot of phone calls, and go to a lot of meetings. That’s what my life looks like at work.
What makes TCNJ’s Center for American Language & Culture unique?
Well, the programming that we offer here at TCNJ through CALC has a number of unique features. The programs themselves are home grown, meaning that they were designed and nurtured here.
Our programming integrates language learning and cultural content learning with academic rigor, which allows students to transfer the language skills that they are developing more easily into whatever course of study or academic institution they go onto.
That’s not always the chief focus of other ESL programming. But it’s not something that programs from CALC are ever going to let go of because the environment that we are in here at TCNJ makes it important that we focus on that high achieving student. The kid who has got all of the tools except maybe not enough of the language. That is a very special aspect of all the language learning that takes place here.
Tell us something about yourself that people may not know.
I really love to cook.
I make fantastic meat dishes, apparently, even though I am a vegetarian.
I cook without tasting food, and it works.