Casey Siagian was an English Language Fellow in Indonesia, 2015-2016. At her host institution, IPB University (Institut Pertanian Bogor), an agricultural university based in Bogor, her primary duties were teaching Academic Reading and Writing to postgraduate students and university faculty. For her secondary duties, she conducted teacher training workshops on topics ranging from writing abstracts to creating communicative lessons in unplugged classrooms, and presented at international seminars, NGOs, universities, and local schools in fifteen different cities throughout Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Malaysia.
New Resources, Enthralling Research
Siagian’s fellowship was her portal to a world of new resources and unexplored research interests and opportunities. With 90% of the faculty’s research written in English, Siagian often found herself working alongside different departments. For example, she collaborated with the Entomologist Department on their fieldwork and research relating to the insect species throughout Indonesia.
Her own research blossomed, too. After interviewing future international students in the YES Program, she presented her findings on demographics and academic backgrounds at several international conferences. She co-authored two books — one on Academic Writing and Reading, and the other an Indonesian Guidebook for foreigners. When planning and gathering materials for her classes and workshops, she found the American English (AE) resources to be especially helpful. Siagian and her workshop participants were often inspired to create their own variations of the resources as well.
Collaboration as a Source of Intrinsic Motivation
Through constant collaboration with her Indonesian colleagues and other regional Fellows, Siagian’s professional development and delight soared during her fellowship. Working with aspiring English teachers for the EPIC and Access Regional Camps fueled her passion for teaching as a source of lifelong learning. “The level of enthusiasm and dedication to the English teaching field the pre-service teachers had at these camps was incredibly motivating and a joy to be a part of,” Siagian states. “Indonesian students learning English from these teachers are in good hands!”
In addition to a powerful workplace synergy with the amazing team of educators at IPB, Siagian treasured her bonding time with her counterpart, Ibu Hesti. “Commuting to and from work everyday with such a brilliant woman was a real gift,” Siagian reflects. “I learned so much from our discussions on the latest teaching practices, and the local traditions of Javanese and Sundanese people. I also improved my language skills in Bahasa Indonesia.”
Learning Bahasa Indonesia Fosters Connections and Insights
Throughout her fellowship, Siagian made an effort to be an engaged language learner herself. Learning the basics of Bahasa Indonesia helped her stay connected to the local community while developing a better understanding of her students’ experiences as English language learners.
Siagian explains, “As a student of Bahasa Indonesia, I quickly learned the value of respecting and reinforcing student culture, building relationships with family and community, designing lessons with meaningful and relevant activities, and creating a language learning environment where students feel safe to take risks.”
Cross-Cultural Soulmates with Multilingual Children
While walking through the Bogor Botanic Gardens one sunny afternoon, Siagian met another nature lover, who would become her husband. “When I moved to Indonesia, my last name was Moorman” she says. “Now, it’s Siagian – a last name from the Batak tribe of Sumatra. Getting adopted by my husband’s tribe and then getting married in a large traditional Bataknese ceremony was one of the truly wonderful highlights of my life.”
For Siagian, who loves all things Indonesian, the ongoing cultural exchange she shares with her family is deeply enriching. “We now have two multilingual children who benefit from a culturally vibrant childhood,” she says. “In our household, we are often having cross-cultural conversations and celebrations on things such as batik and jeans, country music and dangdut, cheeseburgers and nasi goreng, 4th of July and Indonesia Independence Day.”
The Journey Continues with a Fresh Perspective
After her fellowship, Siagian moved to Singapore to work at Stamford American International School (SAIS) where she is currently the Head of the Middle School English as an Additional Language (EAL) Department. Here, Siagian oversees both the Mainstream and Sheltered EAL programs. “My team and I collaborate with content teachers to develop language-rich, inclusive learning environments for our diverse, multilingual students.”
Siagian’s time as a Fellow inspired her to see new possibilities in both her personal and professional life. In the classroom, she continues refining her teaching techniques for diverse learners. “Thanks to my fellowship, I have become a more culturally aware, multilingual teacher,” she reflects. “I have improved my ability to think about other perspectives, and enhanced my teaching abilities by embracing culturally responsive teaching practices.” But her most illuminating insight of all went beyond the classroom. “After a while I realized I was not in Indonesia only to teach,” she says. “I was there to build a whole new life.”
Casey Siagian was an English Language Fellow in Bogor, Indonesia, 2015-2016. She has thirteen years of experience in the TESOL field, including teaching and teacher training in China, Timor Leste, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United States. Casey is currently the Head of Middle School English as an Additional Language (EAL) at Stamford American International School (SAIS) in Singapore.