As an Alumni Ambassador with over ten English Language Specialist projects to his name, three published books, and several programs he’s currently directing and teaching in, Dr. John Bunting clearly likes to stay busy. When Bunting saw the call for Alumni Ambassador applicants, he saw it as yet another opportunity to expand his professional portfolio and network of educators. “Being an Alumni Ambassador gives me a chance to share my enthusiasm for my projects,” Bunting said. “My English Language Programs experiences have been so positive for me both professionally and personally that I want to encourage other teachers to get involved.”
With his range of Specialist projects in countries across the globe over the past twenty years, Bunting’s impact has been enormous, too. As a Specialist in Qatar in 2018, Bunting trained teachers at the university and community college level with a focus on teaching grammar ‘in non-threatening ways.’ For his Specialist project in Tanzania in 2019, he expanded a course on English for Healthcare Professionals that he’d previously developed with Senegalese colleagues. As a Specialist in Turkey in 2021 and 2022, Bunting collaborated with a group of EFL educators and law professors on implementing a Legal English Center to support their university’s English Language Medium program. “All the projects I have done have helped me develop greater sensitivity and humility about the process of language learning and the complex relationships linked to language,” Bunting said.
Working with a Turkish law professor from Yaşar University on building the law school’s legal English program
Most recently, as a Specialist in Russia in 2023, Bunting worked within a larger group of Specialists to create the ‘Talent Management’ webinar for Russian entrepreneurs interested in starting their own ELT institutes. Bunting discussed strategies for finding and keeping talented teachers; classroom observation techniques; and ways to create community with faculty and staff. The webinar had 30 attendees and over 700 live stream viewers. “This Specialist assignment was a wonderful opportunity for me in several ways,” Bunting said. “First, I met a great group of educators among the five other presenters and talked with them about the challenges and joys of running a program. Second, it allowed me to meet and talk with Russian ELT professionals about the challenges that they are facing. Last, it allowed me to reflect on how we can provide a positive atmosphere for teachers at our school. It was rewarding and enjoyable from start to finish!”
One of Bunting’s most treasured Specialist experiences was a series of five projects that he worked on in Mexico from 2003 to 2015. Working with State Department and Mexican university colleagues on a professional development project for Mexican EFL teachers led to a USAID-funded online graduate-level EFL teacher training program that is now in its 11th year.
Culturally, Mexico dazzled Bunting with its trove of riches. Culinary delights abounded. Festive Mariachi bands and brightly attired dancers performed everywhere. On a trip to the food market in Oaxaca, his colleagues treated him to ‘chapulines,’ a regional delicacy known in English as ‘fried grasshoppers.’ “That was an experiment that went surprisingly well!” Bunting said. “They’re very spicy at first, but eventually I acquired the taste.” In Mexico City, his colleagues took him to see the ‘Ballet Folklórico de México,’ featuring a variety of traditional dance and music. “The best part of it all was the evident pride that everyone took in sharing Mexico’s vibrant culture and fascinating history,” Bunting reflected.
Enjoying a traditional dance performance in the main plaza at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional in Mexico City
Several of Bunting’s Specialist assignments have led to long-term partnerships and projects. Currently, he’s working with his colleagues in Turkey on a proposal to expand their work for legal English. In support of one of his Mexican colleagues, he recently gave a Zoom talk with TEFL students from the Autonomous University of Baja California. “Many of my colleagues around the world have become dear friends,” Bunting noted. “We have a lot of joy and laughter when working together, and it’s a pleasure to still be able to collaborate with them.”
Many of my colleagues around the world have become dear friends. We have a lot of joy and laughter when working together, and it’s a pleasure to still be able to collaborate with them.
Bunting’s Specialist projects continue to provide him with innovative ideas for local education and community development as well. From his travels in Mexico, he learned about migration and the impact of shared cultures, which served as the driving force in creating—and directing—the Community English Program in Clarkston, Georgia, for immigrants and refugees.
John Bunting with his Mexican teaching colleagues at the Universidad Pedagogica Nacional in Mexico City
Bunting attributes a large part of his professional prowess and desire to take on new challenges to the values he’s gleaned from the diversity of colleagues. “I think the takeaway I am most grateful for is being able to see firsthand the incredible talent, preparation, hard work, and enthusiasm that my international colleagues put into our projects and into their professional lives,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from them about specific issues we were exploring, and I also learned the value of ‘listen more, talk less’ to understand local issues and sustainable best-practice solutions.”
Bunting currently serves as the Director of the Intensive English Program at Georgia State University (GSU) and as a Principal Senior Lecturer in the Department of Applied Linguistics. In the latter role, he has taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP) to ESL students, as well as grammar, technology, and Applied Linguistics practicum courses. Presently, he is co-teaching a course he helped design for foreign-trained lawyers seeking to take the bar exam in the U.S. that combines legal analysis and legal writing at GSU’s College of Law.
Representing English Language Programs at GATESOL and connecting with program alumni at the booth
As an Alumni Ambassador, Bunting cites his collaborations with local colleagues as one of the highlights of his experience. “Presenting with Dave Chiesa (Fellow, China, 2012-2104; Specialist, Uzbekistan, 2018; Philippines, 2021) at the Georgia TESOL conference was great because it gave me a chance to learn about his projects in different parts of the world,” Bunting said. “I enjoy these collaborations because they can really reinvigorate your professional life.”
John Bunting has been an English Language Specialist in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Tanzania, Qatar, Turkiye, and Russia over the past twenty years. His book projects include, College Vocabulary 4; Grammar and Beyond 4; and Vocabulary in Use: High Intermediate. Recently, he has developed a community English program for immigrants and refugees in Clarkston, Georgia, a town that has been called “the most diverse square mile in the United States.” He is a Principal Senior Lecturer in the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL and the director of the Intensive English Program at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Stay tuned for our next featured Alumni Ambassador story with Carol Lucas