As a runner and yogi, Jill Ramsey-Tyson likes to keep moving, and her fellowship in Kyrgyzstan has provided multiple opportunities to do exactly that. Ramsey-Tyson’s fellowship was cut short in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she was thrilled to return as a 2021-2022 Fellow to complete the assignment (and again in 2022-2023 for a final year). Ramsey-Tyson has worked alongside the U.S. Embassy to implement projects and trainings for English language programs across the country, including the English Access Microscholarship Program, National Reforms in English Education, STEM Training for Trainers, and I Love English Week – just to name just a few.
As these projects all have different local teams and goals, Ramsey-Tyson has been able to develop leadership skills and focus on building local capacity. She also has mentored and trained Fulbright English Teaching Assistants, helped coordinate and host American Corner events, and collaborated to strengthen the organizational and teacher training capacity of Kyrgyzstan TESOL (KGTESOL).
Caravan Tours and Teacher Training
One highlight for Ramsey-Tyson during her first assignment was participating in training “caravan” tours around the region with other English Language Fellows. On the first tour, she and two other Fellows traveled to four different cities in Kyrgyzstan. For the second tour, Ramsey-Tyson was able to join three other Fellows to six cities across Uzbekistan to deliver teacher training. The tours offered a full day of training to teachers who couldn’t easily travel to the capital, yet wanted to participate in professional development and get to know Americans. Ramsey-Tyson loved the chance to visit and train in so many different locations and also have the opportunity to collaborate with and get to know other Fellows in the region.
“Teachers say that these training sessions have been transformational for their work professionally.”
Ramsey-Tyson’s also had the chance to see many projects go through expansions and multiple iterations. With the National Reforms in English Education project, she traveled with teams of regional trainers. During these training days, Ramsey-Tyson and the trainers spent all their time together and had full days of instruction with the trainees. “It’s intense, but a super opportunity for public diplomacy and also for assessing the needs of teachers in the regions, whose lives are quite different from the teachers in Bishkek,” she explained. As a result of the field work, three related initiatives were started: a textbook revision project, online workshop, and the implementation of a nation-wide training aimed toward improvement of local teacher English competency.
Another significant aspect of Ramsey-Tyson’s fellowship has involved planning and delivering academic content for bi-annual Access sessions. Ramsey-Tyson and her team always try to strategically prepare teachers for the future and to offer approaches to using technology in the classroom. For example, they delivered a 40-hour online training that focused on using Google Docs, Google Classroom, and discussion boards. Interestingly, this was pre-pandemic, not knowing what was to come in 2020! Post-pandemic, another training focused on socio-emotional learning (SEL) and universal design for learning (UDL). “Teachers say that these training sessions have been transformational for their work professionally,” she shared.
Cultural Exchange & Personal Growth
Prior to her fellowship, Ramsey-Tyson had few experiences with teacher training or opportunities to lead teachers in professional development. From the moment she arrived in Kyrgyzstan, she was asked to prepare training workshops, and she hasn’t stopped since. A lot of the work she has done includes project management and collaboration with many individuals and nationwide programs. Ramsey-Tyson feels these fellowship years have prepared her to take on future leadership roles in education.
Ramsey-Tyson shared, “I flew out of a comfortable job in Chattanooga, Tennessee and landed in a wonderful fellowship, and I’ve been stretched and I’ve grown in so many ways both professionally and personally. It hasn’t been easy for me for multiple reasons, but for so many more, being a Fellow has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life.”
Jill Ramsey-Tyson served as faculty at SCAD Atlanta, Lee University, and in her hometown at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga in both English and ESL Departments. Since 2000, she has spent many summers and frequent winter holidays teaching abroad in Lithuania, Belarus, and Russia and has extensive experience in developing courses and conducting 2 to 6 week Intensive Summer Language Institutes and other ESP courses for speaking and writing. In 2016, she taught in a Middle Eastern Scholars Program in Tbilisi, Georgia, and served in Georgia in 2017 as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer as an English Education Specialist in Keda, a small town in Adjara, Georgia.