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Alumni Ambassador Carol Lucas Builds Upon her Virtual Educator Projects as She Prepares for Her Fellowship in Sri Lanka

Carol Lucas discussing project locations with Ethan Rosenzweig, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, at the TESOL conference in Portland, Oregon.

Alumni Ambassador Carol Lucas’s journey with English Language Programs began when she stopped by the program’s booth at the Ohio TESOL conference in 2018. “Meeting and conversing with representatives from the Fellow team was the catalyst for change in my personal and professional life,” Lucas said. While Lucas was inspired by the new teaching opportunities she discovered that day, she was also new to the field of TESOL, having previously taught theology studies in a seminary and held administrative roles in the business world. “At that time, I had recently earned my TESOL teaching certification, and I was working with students from another culture for the first time,” Lucas said, referring to the local Somali population she was teaching. “I was happy in my current role and learning a lot, but also excited about the idea of applying to the program. The seed had been planted!” 

After honing her ESL teaching craft for a few years, Lucas applied to English Language Programs and was selected for a Virtual Educator project in Brazil in 2021. “It meant the world to me to be matched with this project because I felt that my hard work was paying off,” Lucas said. And her hard work as a Virtual Educator led to Lucas being selected as a 2022-2023 Alumni Ambassador, representing the program at conferences around the country. “As an Alumni Ambassador, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with so many different teachers and step out of my comfort zone by attending and presenting at new events,” Lucas said.

Lucas and her Brazilian participants finding joy in their online learning world

For her Virtual Educator project, Lucas facilitated a seven-week Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on English for Career Development for a four-class cohort of participants who identified as unemployed or underemployed. Covering topics on searching for jobs, interviewing, writing resumes and cover letters, and developing a professional network, Lucas supplemented group discussions with breakout room practice sessions and EdTech tools such as Quizziz and Quizlet. “This was a journey of self-discovery for us all!” Lucas said. “My participants were inspired to achieve the goals they articulated at the start of the course, which included exploring career development strategies, and expanding their knowledge of available job opportunities. Personally, I improved my time management skills, finding new ways to cover a large volume of material efficiently. And I learned how to adapt backup strategies when technology does not cooperate with your lesson plans.”

For her second Virtual Educator project in Brazil in 2022, Lucas refined her techniques and implemented lessons learned. Working with participants from the Federal University of Goiás (UFG), including three pre-service teachers, she facilitated a 9-week MOOC on English for Career Development. Having the pre-service teachers on board gave Lucas a chance to sharpen her mentoring skills. After assigning each pre-service teacher a group of participants to oversee, they took the initiative on facilitating learning activities, with Lucas providing support and guidance as needed. “The pre-service teachers’ enthusiastic contributions were an invaluable asset in helping make this MOOC a successful one,” Lucas said. “Working as a collaborative team we continued to learn from each other throughout the project.”

Lucas with a former student in the GOAL Program in Ohio

At the end of the project, Lucas initiated a virtual ‘Conversation Happy Hour’ once a month for participants to continue practicing their English speaking skills. “Our bond was so strong that even though our project had officially ended, we didn’t want to let go of our time together,” Lucas said. “I enjoy seeing their commitment and learning from them about aspects of their Brazilian heritage.”

Currently, Lucas works for GOAL Digital Academy in Mansfield, Ohio, a K-12 dropout recovery school, teaching and mentoring English language learners as well as native speakers. Lucas’s teaching tasks for each student vary according to their Individual Education Plans (IEP), with her previous training in Trauma-Informed Care coming to the fore. “It’s about honoring our students where they are in their lives,” Lucas said. “Showing them that they have the capacity to learn reading and writing skills, and helping them develop their confidence to make classroom contributions.” Lucas cited the advantage of being able to continue working with her students at GOAL during her Virtual Educator projects as a means of maintaining their progress.

Connecting with program alumni and prospective applicants at TESOL 2023 in Portland, Oregon

Now, Lucas is looking forward to meeting all of the new Fellows at the upcoming Pre-Departure Orientation this summer in Washington, D.C., the next step in a journey she marvels at. “To be honest, it was quite surreal to be selected as a Fellow for the project in Sri Lanka” Lucas said, noting that a preliminary match to a project in Algeria didn’t work out. “I shed tears of joy. And I still do! To have this kind opportunity at this point in my life has given me a new sense of purpose.”

Representing the program at the MIDTESOL Conference in Kansas City; enjoying Alumni Happy Hour

Carol B. Lucas was a Virtual Educator in Brazil in 2021 and 2022, teaching English for Career Development. Her expertise is an amalagation of career experience in the fields of seminary education, workforce development, TESOL, and Trauma-Informed Care. Lucas currently works as a TESOL instructor and tutor/mentor for GOAL Digital Academy in Mansfield, OH.

Stay tuned for our next featured Alumni Ambassador story with Kim Carroll.

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