Danielle Sclafani was an English Language Fellow in Cuenca, Ecuador, 2019-2020. Her primary duties involved training pre-service teachers in the English pedagogy program at Universidad Nacional de Educación (UNAE). Sclafani taught courses on basic teaching skills, including TESOL methods and techniques, and gave American culture lessons and workshops. She also worked with professors on planning an EFL conference to promote and encourage professors to do research and publish their work.
Sclafani’s secondary duties included training English Access Microscholarship Program teachers, planning and conducting cultural activities for Access students, and guiding Peace Corps Volunteers on a variety of projects, for example, an English Immersion Camp for at-risk youth.
Early in her fellowship, Sclafani noticed that many teachers were struggling with classroom management and finding effective materials to help keep students engaged and on-task. To help with these needs, Sclafani led workshops on classroom management techniques that teachers could immediately use in their classrooms. She also gave presentations on using American English resources and encouraged attendees to “share the wealth” with their students and colleagues.
Sclafani’s specialized interests in TESOL include teaching English to young learners and innovative classroom management strategies. “I am interested in classroom management because it was something I struggled with as a new teacher,” Sclafani said. “I was fortunate to have had wonderful mentors who introduced me to effective ways to use Total Physical Response (TPR), brain breaks, interactive games, and other invaluable techniques for effectively navigating challenging classroom environments.”
A licenced yoga teacher, Sclafani is also certified in mindfulness and meditation. During her fellowship, she began to incorporate mindfulness techniques and strategies into her classes and workshops to showcase classroom management strategies. “Many people are surprised by how effective mindfulness and yoga can be when teaching English,” she explained. At UNAE, Sclafani created a series of yoga and mindfulness classes for aspiring teachers. “After a short session of yoga and meditation that highlighted a particular management strategy, we discussed how and why we can use that method in the classroom…We discussed lazy 8’s and cross-lateral movements, music, deep breathing, and finger touches or mudras—all techniques that help engage students and prepare their minds to be receptive to learning a foreign language.”
During her fellowship, Sclafani was challenged to take initiative and be a leader. Not only did Sclafani find her voice as a Fellow, but she shared teaching methods and created opportunities for female educators to gain confidence, autonomy, and respect. She stated, “In Ecuador I started projects, influenced decisions, and began to find my identity as someone who isn’t afraid to share her ideas and promote positive change. The English Language Fellow Program is truly a special experience for which I am forever grateful.”
Danielle Sclafani has over ten years of experience in the world of TESOL. She first began teaching back in 2008 at a refugee center in Utica, New York, when she was a senior at Hamilton College taking a TESOL certification course. Since then she has gone on to serve as a Fulbright ETA on Jeju Island, South Korea; work with school-age refugees at the International Rescue Committee’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy in Brooklyn, New York; teach business English at multinational companies in Santiago, Chile; and work as a primary school English teacher at private and public bilingual schools in Madrid, Spain. She holds an MA in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA in Psychology. She is particularly interested in the areas of Teaching English to Young Learners, Content and Language Integrated Learning, and Academic Writing. Also a yoga and mindfulness instructor, she enjoys studying and developing strategies for how to effectively utilize yoga and mindfulness in the English language classroom.