In 2019, English Language Specialist Kristen Lindahl conducted a needs analysis on programs for teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in the English-speaking Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
“Most people learning English in the Trinidadian context are Venezuelan Spanish speakers who resettled there due to economic and political unrest in their home country, which is only 7 miles from the southern Trinidadian coast,” explains Lindahl.
This assignment was a logical fit for Lindahl, who teaches at the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies and also holds a leadership role in the College of Education and Human Development of the University of Texas at San Antonio. With leaders in schools, universities, non-governmental organizations, as well as intergovernmental organizations such as Democracy International and the United Nations International Children´s Emergency Fund, she explored ESL curriculum and pedagogy that would support children and adults learning English in their new home. Sharing with a myriad of stakeholders, Lindahl was able to draw parallels with immigration patterns and federal refugee-resettlement programs in San Antonio, and collaborated in tailoring successful solutions for real-time problems to the Trinidadian context. What was most fascinating to her, she reflects, was “learning about the Caribbean perspective on education systems and policy.”
Lindahl was inspired by the numerous and creative ways Trinidadian English teachers and community members provide learning and cultural integration opportunities outside of formal classrooms. Some of these include “drama-based pedagogies, classes provided by family and faith-based organizations, and even martial arts instruction in the interest of combating violent extremism among youth,” she recalls.
She can now bring comparative case studies to the K-12 and adult education teacher candidates she teaches every day in Texas, notably about how “Venezuelans are both socially stigmatized and included in Trinidad and Tobago.” The dedicated educators and students she met in Trinidad and Tobago truly reminded her why she entered the profession.
Kristen Lindahl is an Associate Professor of TESOL/Applied Linguistics in the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies and Assistant Dean of Professional Preparation in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio. She specializes in Teacher Education, focusing on teacher language awareness, identity approaches to teacher preparation, and language ideology. Her recent research interests include identity approaches to TESOL educators’ lives and critical approaches to content-based instruction and teacher education, with representative articles appearing in TESOL Journal, The New Educator, and English Teaching and Learning.