USIA and English Language Teacher Training Support in
Central/South America

USIA maintains regional English language programs offices in San Jose, Costa Rica and Sao Paulo, Brazil. In Costa Rica, the Regional English Language Officer is Paula Curry. In Brazil, the Regional English Language Officer position is currently vacant. We anticipate that a new officer will be there by February, 2000. You can still contact the Regional English Language office in Brazil, however.

There are many English Teaching Fellows in the region--Elizabeth Binnian at the Universidad Tecnologica in San Salvador, El Salvador; Bethany Yackin at Universidad Americana in Managua, Nicaragua; Tim Mitchell at the Binational Centers in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras: Haynes Collins at the Monterrey Technological Institute in Mexico City, Mexico; Beverly Shumway at the Public Education Ministry of Coahuila in Saltillo, Mexico; Elizabeth Kavanaugh at the Catholic University of the North in Antifogasta, Chile; Jennifer Winston at the PANUSA Binational Center in Panama; Corey Brothers at the Binational Center in Arequipa, Peru, and Jordi Combs at the Binational Center in Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Costa Rican EFL Teachers Explore Latest Trends in Teaching Reading

USIS San Jose RELO Paula Curry hosted Brigham Young University Professor Neil Anderson in a one-day program on May 12 to work with Costa Rican EFL Professionals on the Teaching of Reading. Copies of Dr. Anderson's latest book (Exploring Second Language Reading, published by Heinle & Heinle) and his article on the same topic from the April-June 1999 English Teaching Forum were distributed to all participants.

English Teaching Forum Now Available throughout Brazil

Recently the English Language Office in Brazil sold US$2,000.00 worth of English Teaching Forum subscriptions to binational centers (BNCs) and BRAZTESOL (the premier Brazilian professional EFL teachers association). Because of this, the FORUM is now potentially available to anyone throughout the country (through BRAZTESOL) and locally available (through BNCs) in five of Brazil’s ten largest cities, including the two largest.

High Demand for English Classes at Brazilian Binational Center in Salvador, Bahia

Because of the observed manifest quality of English teaching at the BNC in Salvador, Brazil, student enrollments there are continuing to grow quickly and requests to enroll are currently greater than the BNC has the teaching capacity to respond to. As a result, the BNC is beginning other modes of recruitment of quality teachers within Brazil but beyond Salvador itself.

USIS Assists Dominican MinEd to Train English Teachers required by New Law

USIS Santo Domingo supported conference costs for more than 100 public school teachers who attended the annual English Teaching conferences at the The Centro Cultural Dominico-Americano in Santiago and the Instituto Dominico-Americano in Santo Domingo last month. The conferences featured world-renowned U.S. Speakers H. Douglas Brown and Diane Larsen-Freeman. Recently the government passed a law requiring all public schools to teach English. The law has led to a shortage of trained English teachers. By enlisting the help of the Director of Language Programs for the Ministry of Education in distribution of materials and information, USIS enabled 100 public school teachers to attend. The conference drew 700 English teachers in Santiago and Santo Domingo and provided a venue for distribution of English Teaching materials.

English Teaching Fellow in El Salvador Makes Major Impact

San Salvador English Teaching Fellow Betsy Binnian's workshop on "Using Newspapers in the Classroom" at the Jan. 27-29 annual Costa Rican Annual National Conference for Teachers of English received such a good review from fellow EFL teachers that she has been asked to present a similar workshop at a Nicaraguan conference and will submit a proposal to present a workshop at the Salvadoran Cultural Center's annual conference in July. Both before and since the San Jose conference, Ms. Binnian, who works at San Salvador's Universidad Tecnológica (UTEC), has conducted research on using newspapers and TV news to teach English. Due to her efforts, communication among English for Special Purposes (ESP) teachers at UTEC has improved significantly and these teachers (many of whom are part-time) are meeting as a group for the first time. Ms. Binnian has been very active in materials development and conducting workshops at UTEC, and her interest in using the Internet as an English teaching tool has resulted in increased use of UTEC's computer learning centers.

Annual Conference in Costa Rica on "Meeting the Challenges of the New Millennium" Becomes Regional Event

The Costa Rican Annual National Conference for Teachers of English, entitled "Meeting the Challenges of the New Millennium," took place January 27-29, 1999 at the binational center Centro Cultural Costarricense NorteAmericano in San Jose. Over 400 education professionals from Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Great Britain, Honduras, Hong Kong, Nicaragua, Panama, and the United States participated in the conference, which received substantial support from USIS. The intensive three-day program, consisting of over 100 workshops, featured a keynote address by Dr. David Nunan, Director of the English Center at the University of Hong Kong, who talked about virtual classrooms. Another highlight of the conference was a Worldnet program for Costa Rica, Ecuador, and El Salvador, organized by RELO Paula Curry, that featured Dr. Jodi Crandall of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, who is slated to be the keynote speaker at next year's conference.

BNCs Remain Active in Brazil

This overview of Binational Center initiatives in Brazil was provided by RELO George Wilcox:

English Language Specialist Runs BNC Workshops in Venezuela

Dr. Christian Faltis recently traveled to Venezula to assist USIS Caracas and local Binational Centers with their English language programming. While most of Faltis's program took place at the Binational Center in Maracaibo, USIS Caracas paid for him to travel to the BNC in Merida for a short English teaching workshop. The program provided staff at both BNCs with an enhanced understanding of current methodologies in the teaching of English. Additionally, Faltis assisted the Maracaibo BNC in pinpointing and resolving management issues, contributing to a more efficient operation. In Merida, Faltis' workshop produced rave reviews. Reports from both Merida and Maracaibo inform us that Faltis' methodological tips, far from being dry educationalese platitudes, have dramatically increased the rate of language learning and lessened dependency on teachers.

Task-Based Foreign Language Instruction (TBI) by English Language Specialist in Brazil Focuses on U.S. Studies and Civic Education

To further address President Clinton's Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Education goals of strengthening professional development of teachers and enhancing community and business involvement in education, from September 13-28, 1998, English Language Specialist Betty Leaver conducted workshops in Qoiania, Porto Alegre, Campinas, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Leaver is the head of English and Russian training for the astronauts/cosmonauts in the joint U.S.-Russian space program. The audience for her programs, which totaled about 330, was comprised mostly of professional EFL staffs of BNCs in all cities visited plus participants in the first annual English teachers' conference (of the APLIRJ association) in Rio De Janeiro. During several mock debates on U.S. studies that were a part of Lever's workshops, she emphasized the importance of rule of law in U.S. society. As a result of Lever's workshops, many BNC staffs have acquired sufficient expertise to develop their own materials and teach others how to use them. The leading BNC in Sao Paulo has offered to fully pay for Leaver to return to Brazil next July for a two-week intensive session with their teachers.

Nicaraguan National Police Requires English

The Nicaraguan National Police Force (NPF) requested USIS assistance in designing a special project to train officers in English in order to address a critical national need for English language skills. The Director of Personnel and Training for the National Police Force recently met with RELO Paula Curry and the Academic Director of the Binational Center to outline the English language needs of its 6,000 police officers so that a course can be developed that specifically addresses their needs. The immediate aims of the National Police Force are to increase the effectiveness of the police in dealing with international visitors, to enhance its national image, and to continue on the path towards a civilian police force. According to the NPF, plans are underway to organize a tourist corps and to incorporate English into its officer training program at the Police Academy. This project supports the USIS mission goal to promote a just and transparent judicial system.

RELO Workshop in Haiti Receives National Media Coverage

Because many Haitians want to learn English in order to communicate with private and public sectors in the U.S. and other countries and to acquire information that will allow them to develop and maintain a sustainable economy, USIS Port Au Prince invited RELO Paula Curry to Haiti to conduct a three-day program - "Teaching Effectively: Meeting Our Student's Communication Needs." Approximately 75 teachers from around the country participated in the workshop. Curry was interviewed by local TV and radio journalists about her program, and live shots of the program were taken for national television.

RELO Addresses English Educators at Panama Conference

RELO Paula Curry was a plenary speaker at the 12th Annual Panama TESOL Conference, which attracted over 300 English educators from Panama, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Her participation in this conference enabled her to contact key figures at ministries of education, universities, and binational centers. Programs such as this help USIS Panama to strengthen permanent and positive ties with cultural institutions.

ET Specialist Ron Schwartz Attracts Educators

"Dynamic," "engaging," and "experienced" were some of the words used by those who participated in the programs organized by English Language Specialist Ron Schwartz during his USIA-sponsored visit to Buenos Aires. Enthusiastic audiences of educators and administrators attended his four-day seminar for English teachers at the Buenos Aires Binational Center and his plenary sessions and workshops at the two-day Argentina TESOL Conference. Both events were successful and provided those attending with pedagogical information and techniques.

Brazil Uses DVC to Augment Work Done by English Language Specialist

English Language Specialist Patricia Prinz took part in a 70-minute digitized video conference (DVC) with ten supervisors/coordinators from the Brasilia BNC Casa Thomas Jefferson (CTJ) on Friday, October 2. The DVC, which directly supports the Memorandum of Understanding on education signed by President Clinton last year, was follow-up to Prinz's academic specialist work in Brazil in July, when she coached teachers and supervisors at CTJ in techniques of supervision, portfolio assessment, and scaffolding in reading and writing. The DVC focused on effective strategies of teacher supervision and classroom observation as part of the larger processes of individual teacher development and enhancement of BNC teaching quality. As a result of her work with CTJ, USIS and English Language Officer George Wilcox report that the quality of teaching there will be significantly improved. Through targeted dissemination of copies of the DVC tape to four or five other Brazilian BNCs and accompanying e-mail discussion, the multiplier effect of Prinz's program will likely be significant as the other BNCs attempt to achieve changes in their teacher supervision and development strategies similar to those that are occurring at CTJ.

Binational Center and University Team Up to Establish New English Language Program in Panama

As Panama strives to become more active in the global community, especially in regard to its management of the Panama Canal, having a citizenry fluent in English becomes increasingly important. As a result, USIS Panama has made English teaching one of its country plan priorities. Toward this end, RELO Paula Curry recently traveled to Panama and met with the staff of the PANUSA, the binational center in Panama, about new directions for English language teaching in Panama. Among other things, PANUSA is currently working to design an academic English program at the private university USMA. This new initiative will strengthen ties between PANUSA and the university sector and will offer PANUSA an opportunity to lead university training programs. English Teaching Fellow Jennifer Winston will coordinate this program.

US Ambassador Expresses Support for English Education in Costa Rica

Ambassador Thomas Dodd visited the Colegio Trinidad de Moravia high school in San Jose on June 5 to express his support for English language teaching in the nation’s school system. He emphasized that English “opens doors” both linguistically and culturally for the students of today and tomorrow. The national newspaper La Prensa Libre reported on the visit and mentioned Ambassador Dodd’s focus on the study of English as a way to strengthen the long-term positive relationship between Costa Rica and the United States. Costa Rican Vice-Minister of Public Education, Eduardo Loria, accompanied the Ambassador, along with RELO Paula Curry.

RELO Delivers Plenary at TESOL Conference in Venezuela

Regional English Language Officer Paula Curry delivered a plenary at the national TESOL conference in Venezuela in mid-May. Her topic -- "Making a Difference: How to Reach Every Learner" -- explored learning strategies and the characteristics of a good language learner. Approximately 700 teachers and directors of courses attended the conference. Keynote speaker was former TESOL International president Mary Ann Christison, who spoke on brain-based research and language acquisition. Ms. Christison's travel to the conference was partially funded by the USIS office in Caracas.

Helping to Transform Education

One of the outcomes of President Bill Clinton's trip to Brazil in 1997 was the signing of a memorandum of understanding on education. The goals of this document include teacher training and developing new standards for student assessment and testing. These changes in general education are affecting the field of English teaching as well, as Brazil moves away from a contextualized grammar-based model to a model based on authentic materials that will motivate and empower students.

Creating Autonomous Language Learners: The Challenge for the 21st Century

"Creating Autonomous Language Learners" was the theme of the 14th national conference for teachers of English in Central America, held this year January 21 - 23, 1998 in San Jose, Costa Rica. The event was sponsored by the Centro Cultural Costarricense Norteamericano, the Ministry of Public Education, the Associacion Costarricense para professores de ingles (a TESOL affiliate), and USIA. It attracted 450 teachers, administrators, and book exhibitors/distributors from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Featured speakers were U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica Thomas Dodd, Marianne Celce-Murcia from the University of California at Los Angeles, Michael Jerald from the School for International Training/World Learning in Brattleboro,Vermont, and Geraldine de Berly from New Mexico State University. The cultural center hosted the event, and USIA provided financial support to bring the academic speakers to Costa Rica. USIA Regional English Language Officer Paula Curry also gave a grant to the TESOL affiliate so 29 teachers living outside San Jose could travel to the capital. On the second day of the conference, USIA organized a Worldnet interactive television broadcast between teachers in San Jose and Anna Chamot at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. That live and lively discussion focused on learning strategies for EFL students.

CALL-ing On Binational Centers for Technology Upgrades

Binational Centers are autonomous institutions dedicated to the promotion of mutual understanding between a host country and the United States. They engage in a variety of educational and cultural activities, including English teaching, and some have become important centers for the information revolution in their country. The work they do in this area often serves as a model for local, state, and federal departments of education. Two such "wired" binational centers are in Brazil: the Uniao Cultural Brasil-Estados Unidos in Sao Paulo and the Instituto Brasil-Estados Unidos no Ceara in Fortaleza. Both provide Internet services to their students and to the larger local community as well. These centers recently asked USIS for assistance in upgrading the technical and educational aspects of their systems, and they collaborated on bringing Deborah Healey of Oregon State University (Corvallis) to Brazil for two weeks in January. Dr. Healey is one of the top U.S. experts on computer-assisted language learning (CALL). During her visit, she made many practical suggestions for improving outreach services, for using the Internet in daily deborah.jpg (27004 bytes)lesson plans, and for solving technical problems in the maintenance of CALL programs. Her workshops proved effective for both neophyte computer users and experienced engineers.

Deborah Healy at IBEUCE in Fortaleza.
Photo courtesy of IBEUCE.

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