By Dr. Susan Huss-Lederman, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Paulo (PJ) Andrade has attended each week-long Teacher Institute associated with Galapagos Conservancy’s Education for Sustainability Program (ESG Program). PJ teaches English as a Foreign Language in the high school program at the Miguel Angel Cazares School in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. A peer leader among teachers, PJ assigns projects to his students to develop their English skills while learning more about the importance of sustainability. I recently caught up with PJ to ask him about a video project that graduating students had prepared.
Susan: PJ, you mentioned that you began your unit by asking the question, “What would you do if you saw some people throwing trash and they didn’t speak Spanish?” Why did you begin with this question?
PJ: I would like my students to have the ability to communicate in English — to express their ideas and thoughts. Galapagos is visited by thousands of people from around the world and they use English to communicate. That’s the reason.
Susan: How did you structure the project?
PJ: The students are very creative at making videos. It occurred to me that they could develop English skills by producing videos in which they use English to express the importance of protecting and preserving Galapagos. I gave them vocabulary about environmental issues and required them to use conditional grammar structures.
Susan: So language structures and the topic were connected. Were there challenges in implementing the project?
PJ: Yes; the students do not always enjoy working in groups, so that was the first challenge. But in the end, they worked well together. It was an awesome experience, and they really enjoyed it. I created four groups for this class, with two leaders in each group. The leaders had strong skills in English so they could help the others to create the project. At first, they felt a bit nervous, but I tried to encourage them by telling them that they would do a good job. This project took around two weeks, and their confidence grew in that time. They were comfortable doing this project, and they liked it.
Susan: What did you enjoy the most?
PJ: I enjoyed seeing the final project, the videos. I saw the smiles on their faces and how proud they were of themselves. When they spoke, they used all that they had learned in their English classes. This project wasn’t simple. The students tried to do their best, using more vocabulary and grammar structures to express themselves. Their creativity was amazing, and that surprised me.
Susan: How have the teacher education Institutes through the Education for Sustainability in Galapagos Program helped you?
PJ: All the time in the workshops, we learn about sustainability, and it is a topic I have never used in my class before. I only used books, but not anything about Galapagos and conservation. So, the Institutes have inspired me to use these kinds of topics in my class, which is important because our students live in this fragile ecosystem. It is important to know about it.
Susan: The other day you mentioned to me, They learn; I learn. What do you mean by that? Can you give me an example?
PJ: Using topics related to sustainability lets me know that I am part of this paradise, and I could be part of the change, so I am learning with my students. Also, as a teacher I improve my English as well because I am learning new vocabulary and how to pronounce it. I’m improving and learning every single day because I have to teach them, so it is knowledge for me, as well.
Susan Huss-Lederman leads the English Language Advisory Team of the Education for Sustainability in Galapagos Program (ESG Program). She is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics & TESL in the Department of Languages and Literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and has extensive experience in the area of best practices related to forming and strengthening the skills of teachers of English as a second language (TESL).
The ESG Program’s English Language professional development is funded by the United States Government and Katherine Diamond.