Whether it was enjoying daily lunches with colleagues, wearing a saree to classes as other professors do, or attending many cultural events with students, English Language Fellow Vicki Hale purposefully connected and engaged with the local culture and community of Visakhapatnam, India. Hale taught undergraduate and post-graduate courses on Communication and Presentation Skills, Critical Thinking, English for Employability, Portfolio Development, Teaching Methodologies, and Teaching Essentials at St. Joseph’s College (SJC) for Women. Additionally, she taught basic English to several groups of young women enrolled for vocational training. The college classes were crucial in preparing these students with the English writing and speaking skills required to enter a very competitive workforce.
Outside of teaching duties, Hale attended and led many workshops for teachers both in person and online. Topics included focusing on interactive classrooms with drama and games as well as professional development. After developing a new curriculum, “Culture, Language and Literature,” Hale shared the materials in many online webinars with universities across India.
A project that Hale especially felt privileged to take on was spearheading the SJC Language Centre at the college. Launched online in 2020, with an offline facility since 2022, the Centre offers activities for practicing world languages with a focus on English. There is also a tutoring initiative and a program called Professional Perspectives, which offers students the chance to have online interviews and discussions with different vocational professionals. The next project is an online Teacher Forum.
Collaborations Near and Far
During her fellowship, Hale regularly collaborated with her local colleagues, and also with 21 other Fellows who came together from the South-Central Asia region to host a teacher-training workshop for over 250 pre-service teachers. When they weren’t presenting, the Fellows attended and assisted each other’s workshops. Hale said, “It was an extraordinary time of sharing our own expertise and passion and learning from one another!”
Hale also found ways to make connections across entire continents. What do students in India and Estonia have in common? A love for viewing and discussing street art! Hale met Jacqueline Hadel, English Language Fellow in Estonia, during the online Fellow Training of Trainers Course. After learning about Hadel’s interest and work in Street Art, Hale invited Hadel to speak to her Culture, Language, and Literature class. This course was specifically designed for a designated “cluster” group at the college for English majors. The course talked a great deal about how language influences culture and how culture influences language – street art was and continues to be a fascinating way to combine culture and expression. The students viewed street art from around the world and had a vibrant discussion with Hadel. Then the students were tasked to present a piece of street art from their city, “and they entered in with eyes wide open and minds ready to see beyond the words!”
Hale also collaborated with Shannon Smith, English Language Fellow in Vijayawada, India, giving a workshop together for Mentor Teachers in Chandigarh. They also met online with Mina Gavell, English Language Fellow in Kenya, for a three-day webinar for teachers titled “Interactivate Your Teaching”.
Reflecting on her many opportunities to collaborate near and far, Hale said, “the best thing about collaborative teaching is the entire experience is a learning phenomenon!”
A Life Long Learner
Hale believes wholeheartedly that it is never too late to dream a new dream. Her fellowship not only expanded her teaching techniques through experimentation, it also strengthened her character, built patience, and opened her mind to new approaches. One of the biggest takeaways has been the ability to work with women to enhance their objectives, empower them to make good choices, and express their ideas. Reflecting on her time in India developing curriculum and teacher training, Hale says, “I am a more gentle, kind, caring and comprehensive teacher. I am more confident in sharing content and culture in my language teaching.”
Vicki Hale was raised in the Air Force and “thriving amongst diversity” has been the norm. She earned her BS in Business Administration about 15 years after high school (even though she had started earlier with an Associate degree) because she wanted to travel. She has learned more as an adult through experience and that is her aim with students. She got married and had a child years later, and after her son graduated from high school she felt she could go back and get her MEd in TESOL – a whole different field (from Business to Education), reaching people with a communication tool that is needed and is crucial. She has had to make many transitions in her life and so helping others transition and flourish (or at least dream and adapt) comes pretty naturally. She and her husband are now empty nesters and have no plans to retire – as long as she can teach, she will give herself to education and to connection! Vicki Hale was an English Language Fellow in India from 2019-2020. With a pause due to the pandemic, Vicki continued virtually and then returned in-person in 2021 to finish her project.