Rachel Wang was an English Language Fellow at Sam Ratulangi University in Manado, Indonesia, from 2018 to 2020. Her primary duties included teaching classes to English majors on speaking, writing, American Studies, and English for Journalism. She also taught Teaching the Four Skills to pre-service teachers. Rachel had a variety of secondary duties that involved leading teacher training workshops locally and nationally, mentoring students and delivering lectures on U.S. scholarship opportunities with EducationUSA, leading English camps for Access students, and organizing American cultural events at her host institution.
“In my fellowship, I learned I didn’t need fancy PowerPoints or even electricity in my classroom to teach,” Rachel stated. She learned how to make classes of 30, 50, and even 70 students interactive using learning stations, name cards, community building activities, and strategies shared by other Fellows. Through this process, Rachel gained experience in leading teacher training workshops and confidence in the value of what she has to share with other teachers. “Stripped of everything I thought I needed in a classroom to teach, I adapted new methods, reflected on what worked, and became a better teacher as a result.”
Rachel made a lasting impact through her classes and teacher training workshops by encouraging extensive reading. She combatted stereotypical perceptions of reading as a means of studying textbooks and religious texts alone by introducing students to fiction, graphic novels, magazines, and picture books, showing that reading can be for pleasure.
“Reading children’s books aloud to my students helped tap into Indonesia’s strong culture of oral traditions and made reading more interactive and accessible,” she explained. Instead of using American books, Rachel found culturally relevant children’s books at an independent publisher in Singapore and printed more from Let’s Read Asia (a free digital library providing stories from local authors and illustrators in a variety of languages) so that the stories in the books were relatable to her students.
Inspired by RELO Jakarta’s partnerships with the Indonesian Extensive Reading Association (IERA) and BASAbali (a local initiative to promote the Balinese language), Rachel designed a project for her students to publish trilingual children’s books integrating traditional foods, holidays, and values. Each page featured illustrations and text in English, Indonesian, and the local lingua franca Manado Malay, commonly referred to as bahasa Manado.
For their speaking final, her students conducted community outreach visits where they read their children’s books aloud in bahasa Manado to younger children. Their published books have also been read by hundreds of teachers and students across Indonesia as a result of Rachel’s extensive reading workshops. Rachel stated, “These culturally relevant strategies are consistent with my continual efforts to bring students’ diverse cultural heritage into my classroom.”
Rachel S. Wang is originally from Madison, Wisconsin, and first became passionate about how we learn and teach languages while studying Linguistics, Psychology, and TESOL as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds an M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Teachers College, Columbia University. Rachel has taught high schoolers in Japan, adults in New York City, and university students in China and Indonesia. She has led teacher training workshops for over 2,000 teachers. Her interests include project-based learning, educational technology, teacher training, social and emotional learning, culturally relevant teaching, and multilingual literacies. After serving as a Fellow in Manado, Indonesia, 2018-2020, she is currently teaching from home as a Virtual English Language Fellow for the State University of Surabaya in Indonesia.