When Lee Anne McIlroy reflects on her English Language Fellowship, the most rewarding and meaningful memories of her time in Tanzania are of the community she lived in and the people she worked with. Lee Anne was a Fellow in Bukoba at St. Augustine University and Cardinal Rugambwa Memorial College from 2012-2013. Lee Anne and her educational counterpart, local teacher Ocham Olanda Collins, “revised the entire ESL curriculum, established portable libraries for local elementary schools, conducted teacher training and became true partners, spending every day together discussing language, literature and pedagogy.” Their collaboration didn’t end there, however: after Lee Anne returned to the United States, Ocham visited Lee Anne’s home university and attended the International TESOL Conference.

cultural exchange

Besides working with local teachers like Ocham, Lee Anne also forged meaningful connections with her host family. Living abroad poses cultural challenges, which Lee Anne faced with confidence. To combat the loneliness of living in a new culture, she formed strong connections with four priests and a nun who welcomed her into their culture. “Other highlights include training Peace Corps volunteers, conducting ACCESS English camps, doing teacher training throughout Tanzania, networking with other Africa Fellows and learning about the linguistic history of East Africa,” Lee Anne said.

Lee Anne’s work in Africa didn’t end there. After her fellowship in Tanzania, Lee Anne completed a short-term English Language Specialist project in the Comoros Islands. This project was especially meaningful for Lee Anne because she was a Peace Corps volunteer there for two years. “I had always wanted to return to make a substantive contribution,” she said.

Professionally, the English Language Fellow Program made Lee Anne more competitive in the U.S. job market. She was hired as a full-time assistant professor at Santa Monica College and is now a tenure-­track professor at Cerritos Community College. “Before my Fellowship, I was teaching full­time at a four year university without the chance of tenure. At Cerritos College, we have a state-of-the-art language lab, embedded tutors and librarians, accelerated courses as well as workshops in a student-centered and compassionate environment.”

At Cerritos College, Lee Anne teaches academic ESL to students from around the globe. “It is the job of my dreams, and I feel like I am able to make a real, effective contribution to ESL students and practice.”

Lee Anne’s fellowship led to an “absolute metamorphosis: thanks to my colleagues in Tanzania, I am more patient, more grateful, more informed about the world, more thoughtful, more humble, more fulfilled, more compassionate.”

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