Dr. Nina Kang traces her journey to becoming a Master Lecturer at the University of Southern California (USC) back to her time as an English Language Fellow in Bulgaria (2003-2004) and in Serbia & Montenegro (2004-2005). “When I first arrived in Bulgaria as a Fellow, I had limited teaching experience,” Kang said. “But I had to immediately step up as an English language education expert, regularly consulting on curriculum development, assessment, and students’ learning needs.”
Kang’s primary duties as a Fellow—teaching four university English courses per week, developing curriculum with colleagues, and giving teacher training workshops—laid the foundation for the collaborative, versatile TESOL professional she aspired to become. “Those two years of living and working in Eastern Europe helped shape my worldview and direct my future goals and plans,” Kang said.
With such a transformative experience under her belt, Kang then set about pursuing new opportunities, including earning her doctorate in education in 2015, pursuing English Language Specialist projects, and participating in a number of international conferences in Korea, Japan, and India.
My Fellowship was one of the most professionally rewarding and formative experiences of my life. It’s exciting to be able to share this with other teachers and show them new opportunities.
Selected as a 2022-2023 Alumni Ambassador for her many contributions to the field of TESOL and her work as an English Language Programs participant, Kang will spend the year representing the program at events and conferences and sharing her story to inspire other educators.
Professor Kang with her Academic Writing class at USC
While steadily advancing her career at USC, where she was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2014, Assessment & Testing Coordinator in 2017, and Master Lecturer in 2020, Kang also applied to be an English Language Specialist, hoping to collaborate with teachers overseas again. She quickly achieved that objective with her first project in Vietnam in 2017, with a project focusing on curriculum development for the seven disciplines of English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) at the Hanoi University of Industry. Next, she was selected for a virtual project in Lebanon in 2022, where she gave online workshops on multi-mode writing feedback strategies for the English faculty at Antonine University.
“My Specialist projects gave me a valuable opportunity for consulting within my field of expertise and for extensive collaboration with faculty members to ensure consistency in curriculum development and adoption,” Kang said. She also noted that she drew inspiration from the stalwart professionalism and dedication of the teachers she was working with. In Lebanon, for instance, though the instructors were facing a parliamentary election that would determine the future of their country, which was in the midst of political turmoil and a worsening economy, they always came to the sessions ready for deep discussion and analysis of the teaching topics at hand. “It was a tremendous experience of teaching and learning from my Lebanese colleagues,” Kang said. “I marveled at their unwavering resilience and spirit.”
For her project in Vietnam, Kang was ‘overwhelmed at first’ by the proposed schedule of conducting workshops for ten consecutive days from 8:30am to 4:30pm, but she rose to the challenge by finding inspiration in the incredible work ethic of her Vietnamese colleagues. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked that kind of teaching schedule before,” Kang reflected. “I willingly but nervously accepted, vowing to do it the Vietnamese way, where university students and teachers typically start classes at 7am and end at 5pm. I quickly learned that I’d be joined in the workshops by exceptionally hard-working, intelligent, and capable teachers who are committed to serving the needs of their students.”
Kang receiving an appreciation plaque at the conclusion of her workshops in Hanoi, Vietnam
The hardworking group of educators also found time to celebrate. For Teachers’ Day in Vietnam, they traveled to a resort near Hanoi with the entire language department faculty and their families in three large tour buses. “We feasted on delectable cuisines, swam in the pool, sang karaoke, and took countless pictures,” Kang said. “It was a well-earned day of unfettered play and rest.”
In the end, their collaboration proved so successful, their synergy so propitious, that Kang and her Vietnamese colleagues plan to present their work together at a future TESOL conference.
Kang with her Vietnamese colleagues at a resort outside of Hanoi celebrating Teacher’s Day
Kang considers relationship-building with students and teachers outside the classroom to be a cornerstone of her life and work, from her community engagement as a Fellow in Bulgaria, where she was actively involved in organizing public diplomacy-related events, ranging from poetry readings, puppet shows, and jazz festivals, to her group outings as a Specialist. “These projects created opportunities for me to connect with the community, and to innovate and rethink traditional approaches to English language education,” Kang said.
Now, as an Alumni Ambassador, Kang is embracing her opportunity to connect with and inspire other educators to become Fellows, Specialists, and Virtual Educators, too. “My Fellowship was one of the most professionally rewarding and formative experiences of my life,” she said. “It’s exciting to be able to share this with other teachers and show them new opportunities.”
Nina Kang talking with a teacher at the English Language Programs booth at the 2022 CATESOL Conference
Nina Kang, Ed.D., was an English Language Fellow in Bulgaria (2003-2004) and Montenegro (2004-2005), and an English Language Specialist in Vietnam (2017) and Lebanon (2022). She is currently a Master Lecturer and Assessment & Testing Coordinator at the American Language Institute, University of Southern California (USC) with 20+ years of teaching experience. Her interests include testing assessment specific to writing, collaborative writing models, academic help-seeking skills of international students, technology-enhanced teaching and learning, and online/hybrid content delivery.
Stay tuned for our next featured Alumni Ambassador story with Amy Burden.