As an English Language Fellow in Tetouan, Morocco, Thomas Tischler worked at Abdelmalek Essaâdi University. His primary duties included collaborating with colleagues to create academic writing courses, soft skill courses, and American history and culture courses. Beyond the university, he ran teacher training workshops for middle school and high school English instructors in northern Morocco that focused on student-centered learning.
“Being a Fellow was not just for me, but for my wife, Johana, and son, too,” Tischler states. The fellowship provided Tischler and his family with a unique opportunity to spend more time together and learn, travel, and grow while being immersed in a new culture.
Outside of his primary and secondary projects, Tischler and his family joined a community organization called “Centro Cultural Lerchundi, Martil,” where Tischler’s wife, Johana, ran Spanish classes for community members and held workshops on women’s empowerment. Within the organization, Tischler was also able to bring the community together by running a book club on building leadership skills and hosting soccer matches.
When work pivoted to online learning, Tischler became a Virtual English Language Fellow and continued to make an impact from Illinois by conducting student-centered learning workshops for Moroccan first-year English language instructors.
Lasting Connections Through WhatsApp
Tischler made a lasting impact as an English Language Fellow from the teacher training workshops he delivered both virtually and in person. Not only did the workshops offer new perspectives and a variety of practical resources, but they also provided Moroccan educators with an opportunity to network with one another. The connections that the teachers established with each other as a result of Tischler’s work continue to inspire the development and sharing of teaching resources that meet immediate student needs in the Moroccan context.
Through the use of technology such as WhatsApp, Tischler has been able to stay connected with the community in Morocco too. “Still to this day, I am part of WhatsApp groups that discuss interactive activities such as how we adjust instruction in the online or hybrid model,” he states.
Project-Based Learning and Interlinking Course Material
Tischler’s philosophy of teaching English and training teachers is rooted in helping students understand the connections between course materials and activities. “The interlinking of course material can be easily lost in the online format,” he states. To mitigate this challenge, he suggests stating, and restating, the connections between activities so students can understand why and how they can be applied in real-life situations.
Examples of this include Tischler’s frequent integration of authentic and relevant course materials from outside sources such as The New York Times, The Learning Network, Newsela, VOA News, and Breaking News English, among others. Another example comes from project-based learning where students create content using technology such as Photo Story or PowerPoint after choosing a topic of their choice, connecting course content to their subject-matter expertise and daily lives. Tischler also trained teachers in Morocco on how to have students create 2-3 minute podcasts using anchor.fm, audacity, or VoiceThread as reading response tasks. These student-centered activities helped the teachers he trained foster higher-order thinking and learning in Moroccan online classrooms.
Helping Students Achieve Career Goals
“Our students are our students for just a short period of time, so it is our job to give them the tools they need to be successful on their lifelong journeys,” Tischler explains. At the beginning of fall 2019, he met a student with limited English proficiency. The student was the first person in his family to leave his village and attend college. His goal was to not only speak well, but to find work where he could communicate with people of other cultures. By the end of the semester, his language improvement and resume landed him an interview at a company in the city. As he put it, he “aced” his interview and got the job. “The tears of joy and feeling of hope I had when I heard this news is something that will stay with me forever,” Tischler shares.
“Living and experiencing Morocco allowed me to reevaluate my values and commitments, both personally and professionally…it has taught me to be a better listener and has opened my mind to others’ practices and belief systems,” Tischler reflects. He describes how in the U.S. deadlines and “getting things done” are constantly on one’s mind. As a Fellow, the Moroccan proverb, “few desires, happy life,” became the chosen lifestyle of Tischler and his family.
“Enjoying a meal or tea with family, friends, and colleagues are moments that one cannot put a price on,” he explains.
Being an English Language Fellow helped Tischler grow as a global citizen, teacher trainer, lifelong learner, and educational leader. “With the time I have had working with students, teachers, and administrators in Morocco, I know that this opportunity has provided me the tools to push my career forward,” he shares. In the future, Tischler aspires to be the head of an institution, either in the U.S. or abroad.
Thomas Tischler is originally from the Chicagoland area and first became passionate about education while helping ESL classmates in middle school and then high school. It led him to study TESOL and Spanish at Illinois State University and later receive his MA TESOL from Westcliff University. Thomas has worked in English language education for over a decade both in the U.S. and abroad. He was an English Language Fellow and Virtual English Language Fellow in Morocco, 2019 – 2020. His educational interests include student-centered learning, educational technologies, culturally-relevant teaching, and multilingual literacies. In addition to Morocco, he has lived and worked in Spain and China as an English professor, TOEFL prep instructor, and pre-service teacher educator. He is currently the English Language Learning Coordinator for Amerigo Education in Chicago and an MA TESOL professor for Westcliff University. When he is not teaching, Thomas enjoys traveling, cooking for family and friends, and playing or watching sports.