Based in Izmir, Turkey, English Language Fellow Jennifer Lacano’s primary project involves supporting the English Language Teaching department at Dokuz Eylül University. Lacano teaches first-year and-second-year undergraduates, most of whom are on track to become English teachers in Turkey. She mainly teaches skills-based classes involving writing and speaking, and she also teaches a research methodology course.
Lacano’s secondary projects have focused on teacher training with different universities and other academic institutions around the country. She led a workshop series on student motivation for another state university in Izmir, and helped deliver a three-day “E-Teacher Unplugged” training to follow up with an American English online course. She has also led several workshops, including one at an international ELT conference in Adana, one at a local tourism vocational school, and one with the Izmir regional office of the Ministry of National Education. Her secondary duties also included leading an English immersion weekend for Access Microscholarship students at Space Camp.
► A Typical Week in Izmir, Turkey
On the weekends, Lacano starts her day off right with Turkish breakfasts! She notes, “they really live up to their reputation as the best breakfasts in the world!” Lacano uses her weekends to explore Izmir. She enjoys life on the seaside, soaks up the history around her, spends time with her friends, attends her local Anglican church, and goes to the Sunday vegetable bazaar across from her apartment.
During the week, Lacano spends Mondays and Tuesdays planning for classes or working on secondary projects, and on Wednesdays does a mix of both. Her classes are packed together at the end of the week, which keeps her on campus all day on Thursdays and Fridays. The Kordon waterfront is Lacano’s go-to spot for relaxing after class during the week.
She states, “most evenings you can find me on the Kordon, the waterfront promenade on the Aegean Sea, watching the incredible sunsets!”
► Turkish Delights
Lacano faced challenges during her fellowship in getting students engaged with new material and living far away from friends and family back home, but she also has had many successes. “Getting to know my Turkish colleagues and collaborating with them on different projects has been incredibly rewarding,” says Lacano. She notes that sometimes teaching can feel like being in a classroom bubble and involve relatively little collaboration with other teachers. This is something that she has not felt at her host institution in Turkey. Throughout her first year as a Fellow, Lacano has enjoyed regularly working and exchanging ideas with colleagues. Lacano has also enjoyed connecting with other Fellows at the Pre-departure Orientation and at her regional mid-year conference. “We have such a wealth of resources in our community!” Jennifer exclaims.
► Pre-Fellow Life
A travel bug is what initially inspired Lacano to dive into the TESOL field. Her English language teaching journey started in 2006 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan at the Bishkek Academy of Finance and Economics. Lacano quickly realized that she enjoyed teaching English so much that she wanted to make a career out of it.
While Lacano continued teaching in Bishkek, she completed her Master’s degree in TESOL through Azusa Pacific University’s field-based program. Following her return to the U.S., Lacano began teaching at EC Boston, a private language center. During her time there, she worked as both a part-time teacher and a full-time teacher, and also held various administrative roles, including University Foundation Program Coordinator, Continuing Professional Development Coordinator, Senior Teacher, and Assistant Director of Studies. In most of these roles, Lacano mentored and led groups of fellow teachers, delivered orientations for new teachers, and led teacher training workshops.
► Next Steps
As Lacano starts her second year in Izmir, she is also thinking about her next steps post-fellowship. She has started exploring the possibility of continuing her education and pursuing a PhD in the field of teacher research and reflective teaching. “I really do love so many things about English teaching!” Lacano exclaimed. She states,“My fellowship has given me a chance to explore different aspects of English teaching and teacher training in-depth; I’m starting to identify which of those are more interesting and compelling for me.”