Report on Academic
Specialist Visit to Israel and Gaza:
July 7-23, 1999
Mixon, University of San Francisco
About the Specialist
Myrtis Mixon is a lecturer at the
University of San Francisco in the Intensive English Program.
She has been at USF since 1992. Prior to moving to the west coast,
she taught in the ESL program at New York University. After growing
up in the bayou country of Louisiana, Ms. Mixon attended Trinity
College in Washington D.C., and received her BA degree in history
at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. She received her
MA in English at Wichita State University, and later did doctoral
work in English Language Acquisition at the State University of
New York, Stonybrook. Currently she is writing her dissertation
for her doctorate in the International and Multicultural Education
Program at USF. Her dissertation concerns Cajun folktales and
Ms. Mixon has lived and taught in
Albania, Russia, Germany and Scotland. From 1995-97, she was an
EFL teacher training fellow for the USIA in Albania. She also
presented at seminars in Poland, Romania, Indonesia, Greece, Russia,
England, France, and Jordan. Ms. Mixon has authored five textbooks,
three containing short historical fiction about significant events
in American history, one of Albanian folktales and one composition/reader
that is being used in Albania and Poland.
Areas of Specialization
Reading and writing; critical thinking;
folklore and education; peace education or anti-bias education;
content-based instruction using history stories or folktales;
cooperative learning; multiple intelligences; assessment; ESP:
for business and academic purposes; using multimedia including
video, film, and CALL; teacher supervision and evaluation; pronunciation
and oral skills; teaching presentation styles.
My assignment was three-part.
1) The Islamic University in Gaza. I was the only speaker
for the first two days of a five day seminar for 100 English language
teachers, both elementary and high school. I had been asked to
give eight hours of instruction about computer assisted language
learning, with the use of an LCD set in a large auditorium.
- The English language professors
from Gaza who were in charge of the conference are teaching
at a high level of the TEFL profession. Their methodology and
the focus of their presentations were up-to-date and sounded
- The Gaza teachers need to have
hands-on computer sessions before they can fully benefit from
sessions on computer assisted language learning. About a fourth
of the teachers have access to computers, and some of the others
fear they won't have access for years, one saying 2006, one
saying 2020. Given this situation, I gave an awareness presentation
so that the teachers learned what is possible for them in the
future, even though it isn't happening for them immediately.
For those who have access to computers already, I gave them
information about using CALL. Jan Miller, the regional English
language officer, had sent 100 copies of Mark Warschauer's Teaching
with E-mail. Mary Jane Bushnaq, the Gaza Program Officer
in Tel Aviv, planned to do a follow-up. It is important that
the teachers personally learn to use computers, at the university,
if not in their own schools.
- Another perception was that the
teachers wanted ideas for new types of lessons, knowledge about
assessment, and new methodology materials. I had brought these
along, and our second day was spent linking these to the CALL
information from the first day.
- One big "win" from these CALL
presentations was that many teachers became excited about computers,
and the professor in charge of the computer labs at the university
offered the teachers access to his labs to learn to use them.
- My assessment instrument at the
end of the two days indicate that the group increased their
understanding of CALL manifold, and they enjoyed the group work
2) The English Teachers' Association of Israel summer conference.
I gave a 90-minute presentation on critical thinking and folklore
to 85 teachers.
- The language fluency of the English
teachers in Israel is unusual because a high percentage of them
are native English speakers.
- Their interest in both areas,
critical thinking and folklore, was extremely high.
- The assessment instrument I used
indicated that the teachers wanted more lessons on folklore,
and more explanatory information on the application of critical
thinking skills to English language acquisition. They enjoyed
the folklore material immensely.
- The editors of the ETAI Forum,
their teacher's periodical, asked that I write an article for
them about my presentation; this article will reach all the
English teachers in Israel.
3) A resident 5-day seminar at the School for Senior Educators
in Jerusalem. Three of us presented and attended the eight-hour
- Although the three presenters
had never met before, we worked unbelievably well together.
For four days the three of us met and co-created the seminars.
According to the assessments we received, we succeeded in our
goals to give the teachers ways to promote a civil and democratic
society through a content/methodology mix. Many of our lessons
were about pluralism and the promotion of tolerance.
- The folklife/folktales classroom
material I presented for the teachers to use to foster respect
for other groups and peoples was welcomed and appreciated.
- Critical thinking, a relatively
new emphasis in language learning is of great interest to the
teachers. I shared ways to increase critical thinking through
- My reading/writing material (stories
with exercises) that highlights events in American history were
effective, and they were keen to apply some of these ideas to
their own history.
- Most of these teachers are already
connected to all aspects of CALL and don't need any more help
in this respect. (Although one teacher from the west bank area
expressed a need for help in this subject, and at least two
others expressed on the assessment sheet that they had an interest
in knowing more about CALL.)
- One development that I assisted
was the creation of a listserv with all the teachers and the
three of us, the resource people, will also participate on the
listserv. That way we will be able to continue the dialogue
that we started in Jerusalem, and remain resources for the teachers.
It is also a way that the teachers can continue and enrich their
own relationships with each other. I am in contact by email
with the teacher who will moderate the list.
- The Barnga simulation game that
I facilitated one evening gave the teachers invaluable cultural
Mixon, M. 1999. Stories from American
history. Chicago: National Textbook Company.
Mixon, M. 1996. Americana: Easy
reader. Studio City, CA: JAG Publications.
Simon, E. 1990. Student worlds
student words. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Warschauer, M. 1997. E-Mail for
English teaching. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Publications.
The Foundation for Critical Thinking
Folklore web addresses:
The Acadians of Louisiana -- Good lesson plans
Smithsonian Folklife online lesson plan (mentions nicknames) --
be sure to look up the main Smithsonian site at http://www.si.edu
Online Journal of Immigrant Stories -- includes many childhood
memory stories. Students can read the simple stories and respond
in the guest book.
The Library of Congress' American Folklife Center publication
Folklife and Fieldwork -- great site. Also take a look at the
main Folklife Center site, located at http://lcweb.loc.gov/folklife/archive.html
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