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Alumni Ambassador Melissa Hauke Takes on New Roles to Stay Invigorated in Life and Teaching

Alumni Ambassador Melissa Hauke thrives on new professional challenges to such an extent that even when she’s not looking for them, they seem to find her. At one point deep into her career, after completing her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Hauke considered the idea of “not rushing to make another goal” in her professional life. Soon thereafter, however, she met English Language Fellow Program alum Barbara Stoff, who shared her amazing fellowship experiences of living and working in Armenia, – and Hauke knew she was off and running again with a new goal in mind. “Hearing about Barbara’s time as a Fellow, it instantly sounded like something I wanted to do.” Hauke said. “My next goal had found me! And I applied to be a Fellow as soon as I could.”

Being a Fellow in Russia (2014-2015) did two crucial things for Hauke’s journey in life. “On a personal level, my fellowship filled that “what’s next” hole in my life and provided me with a wonderful experience of living abroad,” Hauke said. “On a professional level, after completing my fellowship I felt empowered to apply for opportunities that I didn’t think I was qualified to do before.” Indeed, new professional roles have snowballed for Hauke, including serving on committees for TESOL International Association and WATESOL, presenting at numerous conferences and for multiple webinar series, co-authoring articles and teachers’ resources, and becoming an English Language Programs Alumni Ambassador.

Hauke, center, with her beloved Russian colleagues at their university’s Christmas party

For her primary duties as a Fellow, Hauke provided instruction to undergraduate and graduate Global Economics students in general English and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) at Ural State University of Economics, in Yekaterinburg. Her secondary duties consisted of facilitating MOOCs (Massive Open On-Line Courses) on academic writing, hosting American English Live Webinar reflection sessions with regional teachers, designing and teaching a writing class for university professors, and leading activities with the English Access Microscholarship Program. She also frequently traveled with her university colleagues to high schools in the Ural region for student recruitment. “I loved working with my Russian colleagues and students,” Hauke said. “They were eager to learn and ready to share their ideas with me. I especially loved how they took what I presented or suggested and then made it better.”

After a workshop on the Yamal Peninsula in Northwest Siberia, Hauke and her colleagues visited the indigenous inhabitants, the Nenets,
and learned about their reindeer-herding way of life on the tundra

Having the opportunity to travel widely in her host country to work with different groups of students and teachers brought Hauke experiences both amusing and profound. “On these work trips, I was frequently treated like a rock star,” Hauke said. “There would be events held especially for me where students would perform cultural dances or give concerts where they could demonstrate their English proficiency. It was quite humbling and often brought tears to my eyes.” 

Following her workshops, her hosts whisked her off to “wonderful cultural field trips” exploring the local area, nature, and heritage. At a conference on the Yamal Peninsula in Northwest Siberia, Hauke’s hosts arranged a trip to the tundra, where they met the indigenous Nenets, visiting their ‘chums’ (tent-like homes) and spending time with their reindeer. “These experiences were such an honor because you realize you’re getting to see something that not many people ever see, and that your colleagues have gone out of their way to organize it for you,” Hauke said.

Hauke celebrating New Year’s Eve with colleagues, making ‘pelmeni’, Russian dumplings (left); enjoying fish soup (right)

Hauke’s local colleagues often took her to ballets, operas, symphonies, and art exhibits, as well as to university parties. On one memorable occasion, she was invited to attend a traditional New Year’s Eve overnight gathering. “New Year’s Eve and Day are very special holidays in Russia with many cultural traditions,” Hauke said. “I learned how to make ‘pelmeni,’ which are Russian dumplings, and I tasted the traditional dishes for this occasion which included fish soup fixed outdoors over an open fire.” 

After such collegial bonding, Hauke enjoys staying in touch and collaborating with “the wonderful ladies” from her time in Russia, emailing regularly and sharing news about their lives. One of her close Russian colleagues has become her international travel partner, with the two meeting for trips to Armenia and Spain. Working with the English department chair from Ural State, Hauke wrote an article on Russian-to-English translations for an academic journal, and presented virtually on “Surviving and Thriving in a 1-to-1 Classroom” at the International Scientific-Practical Conference at Ural State University of Economics.

Hauke and her Thai colleagues at work on adapting materials for an English-Thai bilingual math program

In 2021, Hauke was selected for an English Language Specialist project in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For this role, she designed seven two-hour online methodology classes and an intensive ten-day teacher training seminar for twenty-five math and English teachers from eleven municipal elementary schools, helping prepare them to pilot an English-Thai bilingual math program. Session topics included vocabulary, oral proficiency, assessment, interactive lessons, and co-teaching. 

After creating the online and in-person classes, Hauke then traveled to Thailand to lead the trainings and work with trainers from the AUA Language Center on how to best implement the materials with new teachers. “Over the two months of this project, I had a range of emotions from excited to exhausted to overwhelmed to triumphant,” Hauke said. “Our success can be attributed to the support and encouragement that I received from the Regional English Language Office and the local counterparts, who were insightful in making adjustments as we went through the materials.”

Currently, Hauke is an ESOL resource teacher for Career/Technical Education (CTE) for Fairfax County Public Schools. In this role, she helps students master the skills they will need for medical careers, including dental, pharmacy, EMT, and nursing. “I thoroughly enjoy this position as I’d always wanted to try teaching English for Specific Purposes,” Hauke said. “Each day presents a new challenge, and I learn a lot about the language of medicine, such as how to read dental charts and ‘sig codes’ for filling prescriptions.”

When she’s not busy with her full-time teaching position at West Potomac Academy and traveling around the U.S. to conferences as an Alumni Ambassador, Hauke is engaged in a flurry of additional professional activity. She has presented at the recent TESOL International Convention in Portland and at the last three WATESOL conferences; given two webinars for English Without Borders Tajikistan and one for the American English Webinar series; and co-authored the TESOL Zip Guide, ‘Welcoming and Supporting Multilingual Newcomers.’ For November 2023, she is the ‘Teachers Corner Guest Expert on Environmental Education and Climate Change.’ As an executive board member for WATESOL, Hauke served as Vice President, 2021-2023, and is the Incoming President, 2024.

Hauke attending fall conferences with members of her 2023-2024 Alumni Ambassador cohort (left, at NCTE with Farrah Littlepage; right, at WATESOL with Mayonne Granzo)

After thirty years as a dedicated K-12 educator, Hauke is now eyeing retirement, which of course for her means that she’s “excited about taking on new projects.” In particular, having recently completed her Certificate for Adult Education, Hauke is looking forward to teaching more adult education classes and engaging with a new segment of her community. “I feel invigorated as I think about what other opportunities await me once I have more freedom to explore other possibilities in the field of education,” Hauke said. In the meantime, Hauke has been enjoying her role as an Alumni Ambassador, sharing her program experiences with new educators and encouraging them to pursue new professional opportunities. “I’ve had a ton of fun meeting teachers at fall conferences,” Hauke said. “Each teacher has a story to share and valuable experience that can benefit the world.”

Stay tuned for our next featured Alumni Ambassador story with David Malatesta.

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