Cultural exchange, to me, goes beyond awareness…
English Language Fellow August Garnsey teaches pre- and in-service teachers in the Foreign Theory and Language Practice department at L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. Prior to this in-country fellowship, Garnsey was a Virtual English Language Fellow at the same host institution. He has taught a wide range of courses both virtually and in-person, such as Profession-Oriented English, Critical Thinking in Foreign Language Teaching, Developing English Presentation skills, and more. In addition, Garnsey leads an English discussion club at the university, which draws students from many different disciplines, including journalism and tourism. Always looking for ways to collaborate, Garnsey has partnered with colleagues at various conferences across Kazakhstan as well as conducted speech, presentation, and debate competitions at the university.
Using “The Corner” to “Speak Up”
As part of his secondary duties, Garnsey partners with American Corner and Maker Space in Nur-Sultan. “The Corner,” as Garnsey and his students call it, has been the center of numerous English teacher development webinars, which have engaged over 1,000 English teachers during his fellowship! One of the activities is an in-person English discussion club called “Speak Up.” It’s here that a large, diverse group of participants meet on weekends to converse, and it has been hugely successful.
A Teacher-Training First
Garnsey regularly partners with his Regional English Language Officer (RELO) and local education departments to provide English teacher training courses. As an in-person Fellow, he designed a long-term teacher training course with over a dozen sessions focusing on training participants to produce meaningful and contextualized lessons. Participants presented their lesson plans and activities at the end of the course, and Garnsey was always amazed by their creativity. Since the first training course was developed and implemented, he has now partnered with the education department of Nur-Sultan to produce a similar course for locally nominated English teachers from schools across the capital.
One of Garnsey’s personal passions and goals is to create leadership opportunities for students and English teachers in Kazakhstan through co-presenting and co-leading opportunities with him as a Fellow. Using both virtual and in-person modalities for teacher training, Garnsey invites three to four co-presenters at a time to join him. So far he has invited about 100 co-presenters. One reason Garnsey is so passionate about co-presenting with local teachers is because teacher-to-teacher engagement and professional development is often lacking in learning communities around Kazakhstan. He hopes that these first-time presenters can have a positive impact throughout local schools and universities.
Garnsey uses his background in business management skills to empower others to lead in his English language classroom. “It’s an inspiring thing to witness someone step up and speak to a large audience of professional peers – to see them conquer their fears, transcend social norms and negative attitudes about volunteerism, and use the foundational experience to springboard into future presentations, workshops, and contributions into their learning community,” explained Garnsey.
A Celebration Worth the Wait
One of Garnsey’s most memorable experiences was a school visit during the Nauryz holiday. He learned of the holiday as a Virtual Fellow, and was eagerly waiting to experience the Nauryz holiday in person in March 2022. He described it as a dream come true as he participated in festivities including national games and dances. “The national clothes and costumes were phenomenal. It truly was a day I would never forget,” he said.
Personal and Professional Growth
Coming from a background in business, Garnsey approaches his fellowship as a world of opportunity in the field of education. He’s had many firsts as an educator, such as developing and leading training webinars, and has also grown in terms of his understanding of cultural exchange.
Garnsey reflected, “Cultural exchange, to me, goes beyond awareness. It is more than just accepting different types of foods, clothes, or ways of speaking. It takes, first, someone to truly embrace the subtle or underlying differences in society, no matter how small they might seem, – such as how lines are formed or not formed or how paperwork is processed. That is all part of the exchange process. It’s these smaller or more subtle differences that require a day-to-day attitude of open-mindedness and some creativity.”
August Garnsey is an English language teacher and teacher trainer who holds an MA in TESOL from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago as well as CELTA and TKT CLIL credentials. His areas of interest are English for Specific Purposes, primarily in Business English as well as CLIL methodology, and other content-based instructional methods. August is currently an English Language Fellow in Kazakhstan with the U.S. Department of State. Before becoming a Fellow, August was an International English Teacher at Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools – also based in Kazakhstan. August also has experience as an educator in the U.S., teaching adult international students in higher education in Chicago for over 5 years. He also partnered with the Japan America Society of Chicago and their 500+ corporate partners, providing strategic professional English language training solutions for Japanese expatriates and executive management. In addition to his teaching credentials, August holds a BA in Business Management and International Business and was a successful manager in banking and finance for over 7 years.