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If you graduated from UAB's ESL teacher education program and would like to add your own testimonial, please contact our Webmaster, Lisa Preston at lisamariepreston@uab.edu

Alumni Testimonials from Different Perspectives (click to be taken directly to that section)

Home languages other than English
ESL teachers who went overseas to teach
ESL teachers who teach adult language learners
ESL teachers who earned P-12 certification in ESL
ESL teachers who earned alternative certification in ESL
Mainstream classroom teachers (P-12)
Mainstream teachers who became ESL teachers
ESL teachers who pursued higher degrees (EdS, EdD, PhD)
ESL teachers who became coordinators and school administrators
ESL teachers who became course instructors and supervisors at UAB

Home Languages other than English

Xinyu Zhai

As a non-native English speaker, the experience of studying Academic English and going through the TESOL program provided me with a whole new perspective on the English language and how education can make a difference. It changed me as an English learner, and currently I am using what I learned to help others who speak English as a second language - linguistically and culturally. I am glad I came to UAB and I could never thank you enough!
Xinyu Zhai ('16 MA-TESOL); Chinese Cultural Advisor, INTO UAB

Gonul Uguralp Cannon

After serving as an English teacher in Turkey for over two decades, I decided to take a sharp turn in life and become a full-time graduate student at UAB. Besides enabling me to look at language education and cultures from a new perspective, my MA-TESOL studies transformed me into a more effective educator. The program is designed to provide training in understanding the importance of current theories and technology as well as in expanding teaching skills through research and classroom practices. I am grateful to all my professors for their full support and assistance. They were always warm and welcoming. I feel like UAB is my second home.
~Gonul Uguralp Cannon ('17 MA-TESOL), English-Turkish translator; former English Instructor in the ESL Department at Uludag University, Bursa, Turkey

Kathy Zomorrodian

It was a distinct privilege to be part of the ESL master's program at UAB. After being an English teacher in Iran for ten years, pursuing my graduate education has grown me personally and professionally. The program allowed me to develop my teaching skills and knowledge that would benefit me throughout my professional career. It has been a great experience, and I cannot be more thankful.
~Kathy Zomorrodian ('17 MA-TESOL), ESL Teacher at ICDE; former instructor in English department at Higher Education Institute of Management and Technology, Shiraz, Iran

Sherine Wahba

The ESL program was a great experience for me. As an international myself, I could understand the challenges that international students face, but during the program, I learned how to support them and make a difference in their lives. What I learned was not only through textbooks but through huge support that I personally got from the academic advisors in the program. I was very stressed at the beginning, but the support and encouragement I received was a huge help! Believing in others is a key to help them reach their goals and be successful.
~Sherine Wahba ('11 MA-TESOL), Academic English Advisor - INTO UAB; former positions: ESL Instructor at UAB's English Language Institute; tourism in Alexandra, Egypt

Chi Mei Lee

I just can't thank you enough for helping me with this opportunity to teach. I feel so confident because you have prepared me well for my ESL teaching career. From the bottom of my heart, there are no words that can fully express my gratitude to you. As I continue developing my teaching career, I will never forget how UAB has influenced my life as an ELL and as a non-native English teacher. Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!
~Chi Mei Lee ('06 MA, '12 cert.), ESL Teacher of Adult ELLs, Atlanta, GA; former positions: ESL Teacher at HICA!; Piano Teacher in China

Suha Huneidi

The UAB ESL program has changed my life and helped me realize how much I can help others. I feel that the program empowered me and that now I can impact my students' lives and help them achieve their goals.
~Suha Huneidi ('07 MA), ESL Teacher at Pelham Park Middle, Pelham, AL (formerly Riverchase Middle): former English Teacher in Amman, Jordan

Celia Billescas Hilber

Thank you so much for your assistance during the time I attended classes at UAB. It has opened a brand new world to me and made me very proud of who second language learners are and how far we have come. Mil gracias por su paciencia y su interés en ayudar a personas que hablan idiomas que no son inglés. One of the best services that your program at UAB provides is making its students conscientious about the ways we can use the information we have learned and apply it within our classrooms. Thank you.
~Celia Billescas Hilber ('07 coursework), Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at JSU, Jacksonville, AL (retired); former Teacher of Hearing Impaired, Talladega, AL and Brownsville, TX

ESL Teachers Who Went Overseas to Teach

Susan Schell

The UAB MAEd/ESL program was an amazing opportunity for me to learn about teaching ESL in a supportive environment. I currently create and give ESL training courses for primary school teachers in Korea and I rely heavily on the knowledge I gained during the program at UAB. I was able to move from teaching in schools to teaching teachers due explicitly to my master's degree, so it has truly been a boon.
~Susan Schell ('16 MA-TESOL), teacher trainer in Korea; former Peace Corps Volunteer in Macedonia

Josephine Cox

Earning an MA-TESOL under the tutelage of Dr. Spezzini, Dr. Prado, and all the highly qualified, dedicated professors and instructors at UAB sealed my experiences teaching overseas and completed my prior studies in TESOL. UAB's program developed me into being a professionally minded teacher - I could never have dreamt of presenting at conferences, writing theoretical papers, or even working at a great university without this program. During my studies, I was teaching at a small, distance university based in Russia, and my students excitedly told me half-way through the Master's that I had become a notably better teacher. This lauds the quality of instruction I had received. Thank you!
~Josephine Cox ('16 MA-TESOL), ESL Adjunct Instructor at INTO-UAB; Violin/Viola Musician and Teacher; former positions in Russia, New Zealand, Chile, and university distance education

Ralna Howell

Teaching overseas, both in Korea and Qatar, has been the highlight of my career, and I would encourage anyone who's interested in EFL to pursue opportunities abroad at some point. The people I've met, the experiences I've had, and the countries I've visited while abroad have enriched my life in ways I couldn't have imagined. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about teaching overseas to go ahead and take the leap - you won't regret it! Before you do, though, also consider getting an MA in ESL/EFL Education at UAB; it will enhance your abilities and give you the tools you need to become more effective in the classroom.
~Ralna Howell (MA '13), former positions: EFL Teacher in Korea and Qatar

Elise Belcher

One of the biggest advantages of UAB's ESL teacher education program is how it can be tailored to meet individual needs. Although my classmates usually took two courses each semester, I was only able to take one course at a time because of family responsibilities. When my daughters were ready to start college, I was ready to start my next career. As an ESL educator, I continue learning something new every day. Above all, I thoroughly enjoy the relationships with my colleagues and students.
~Elise Belcher ('07 MA), EFL Teacher in Saudi Arabia; former positions: ESL Instructor and Program Coordinator, English Language and Culture Institute, UAB; Stay-at-home mom

Elizabeth Mayfield

Pursuing my MAE in ESL at UAB was a decision that truly developed, encouraged, and challenged me as a teacher. My experience among the professors, teaching methods, and courses pushed me to levels of learning that I only hope I will never forget. I also developed a greater love for those students who come to us "between worlds." I am currently a university teacher in China, teaching oral English. I am so thankful that the ESL program at UAB equipped and prepared me for my time here. I am truly grateful!
~Elizabeth Mayfield ('08 MA), English Teacher, LuDong University, Yantai, Shantai Province, China; former 4th Grade Teacher, Hall-Kent Elementary, Homewood, AL

ESL Teachers Who Teach Adult Language Learners

Megan Gilliland

When looking for an MA-TESOL program, I compared schools throughout the South. UAB stood out to me because of the commitment the administrators and instructors had to maintaining a student-centered classroom. I felt the instruction we were given correlated with the instruction we were being taught to give in an adult ESL classroom setting. The constant encouragement, support, and dedication to student success I received in the program is now how I strive to work in my current position. I will always be thankful to Dr. Spezzini and Dr. Prado for their influence and guidance!
~Meghan Gilliland ('15 MA-TESOL), INTO UAB Learning Resource Center Coordinator, former resident of Mississippi

Cary Chappell

Most of the decisions I have made on impulse have turned out to be the wrong ones - but not returning to graduate studies through the adult ESL program at UAB! I was a lifelong pizza delivery guy who was also working, in December 2005, as a call center representative for a cell phone carrier. I learned of the need for ESL instructors while reading the newspaper during my lunch break, and called Dr. Spezzini the same afternoon! Today I am a pre-service ESL teacher for adult learners from many walks of life, and I will be graduating in August 2009. I had always believed that my undergraduate degree in international studies would never be relevant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but in my current position it seems the world is now traveling to me. My students are all at developmental levels of English, and speak six languages! Before starting this program, I would never have believed this type of work to be possible for me.
~Cary Chappell ('09 MA), ESL Teacher at Kansas State University; former positions: English Language Fellow to Indonesia; Part-time ESL Instructor at Shelton State Community College; pizza delivery person

Rebecca Jacks

In summer 2008 I was asked to train a group of twenty volunteers to teach English in LuChun, China (Yunnan Province). I was also given the responsibility of teaching a 40-hour pronunciation workshop to the English teachers from the local schools. What an opportunity - especially since I wouldn't be completing my master's degree until that fall! UAB prepared me in every way for teaching English in China. My MAE-ESL studies taught me how to research a project for teaching ESL and how to learn from colleagues. UAB taught me to reflect on my teaching after each session and how to appreciate and accept cultural difference, especially regarding teaching methods and educational systems. Most of all, I learned how to be flexible and confident in new teaching situations. Thank you UAB!
~Rebecca Jacks ('08 MA), former positions: ESL Instructor in UAB's English Language and Culture Institute; Insurance Representative in Birmingham, AL

ESL Teachers Who Earned P-12 Certification in ESL

Elizabeth J. House

UAB's ESL teacher education program phenomenally prepared me to not only teach ELs at all levels, but to also confidently advise and collaborate with administrators and general educators about how to best serve our EL population. The professors continually model and encourage collaboration and professional development. They have the PK-12 classroom experience needed to ensure future teachers have ESL practices that are the best and most appropriate for each age group. I highly recommend this program to anyone seeking an ESL education degree.
~Elizabeth J. House ('16 MA), ESL Instructional Coach, Decatur City Schools, AL

Jerrie Quina

I am so happy that I have been able to pursue my master's degree in ESL through UAB. The flexible programs that are offered have allowed me the opportunity to further my education in a most rewarding field and at a distance of 250 miles from Birmingham. The faculty has been very caring and accommodating. Any questions or concerns I have had have always been promptly addressed.
~Jerrie Quina ('09 MA), ESL Teacher at Alma Middle, Bayou LeBatre and Denton Middle, Mobile, AL; former 1st Grade Teacher in the Mobile County School System

Rebecca Ogden

The MA program in ESL was very practical and hands-on. It helped me gain the tools and knowledge I needed to teach ESL effectively in the classroom, to become an advocate of students in the school environment, and to effectively deal with the cultural issues that are a very real part of teaching English Language Learners. Although I was not a "new" teacher, I gained a wealth of knowledge that is useful in teaching ESL, as well as other academic areas. In fact, I am currently teaching Spanish and couldn't feel better prepared to deal with the challenges I face on a daily basis. The faculty members in the ESL program were very caring and provided the professional guidance I needed, many times far exceeding my expectations. I highly recommend the program.
~Rebecca Ogden ('08 MA), Spanish Teacher at Hoover High, Hoover, AL; former ESL Teacher in Hoover, AL and Tuscon, AZ

Jeanne D'Arc Boohaker

My education in ESL at UAB has been one of my best experiences. The curriculum was rigid and effective, and the teachers were remarkable, experienced, and compassionate. UAB's ESL teacher education courses enhanced my career and allowed it to flourish. Everyday I take what I learned at UAB and apply it to my ESL and foreign language classes; the results have been unbelievable. The strategies and techniques I learned will stay with me forever. I recommend UAB's ESL program to anyone who is interested in following this path. I grant the success in my career to UAB and to the dedication of the teachers there.
~Jeanne D'Arc Boohaker ('07 MA), ESL and French Teacher at Berry Middle, Hoover, AL; Arabic Teacher at Samford University, Homewood, AL; former French Teacher at John Carroll High, Birmingham, AL

Carmen Callahan

My experience at UAB in the ESL program was a win-win situation: My students and I benefitted from my being better able to meet their needs in learning English as a second language, and UAB won because they sent off a graduate student who is honestly able to promote the program to other potential graduate students. My experience was well worth my three-hour round trip drive and the many hours of work and study.
~Carmen Callahan ('04 MA), ESL Teacher at Oak Park Elementary, Decatur City Schools, AL; former positions: ESL Teacher at Somerville Road Elementary and Elementary Teacher at Austinville Elementary, Decatur City Schools, AL

The collaboration among the students and faculty is what makes the wheels turn so that more teachers learn how to reach English Language Learners in a positive and stimulating way. Listening to questions from teachers, what is challenging, how to solve instructional dilemmas, and sharing successes from real-life everyday classrooms is what I find most helpful about the UAB studies. I feel I am not alone and I have many professionals ready to help with ELL issues that come up. It's the relationship that makes the difference!
~Donna Dahl ('04 cert.), ESL Teacher at Vestavia West Elementary, Vestavia Hills, AL (retired); former Spanish Teacher in Vestavia City Schools, AL

ESL Teachers Who Earned Alternative Certification in ESL

Stephanie Montiel

UAB has a fantastic ESL program! I live in Baldwin County and the professors and advisors were wonderful towards helping me achieve my goal as an ESL teacher from a distance. I have been teaching ESL in Baldwin County Schools for two years now and feel that I have been given all the tools and resources to help my students succeed. What is the best part about the ESL program at UAB? I would feel comfortable contacting any of my previous professors from the program and they would still be willing to help and support me!
~Stephanie Montiel ('08 MA, '18 EdS), ESL Resource Teacher, Gulf Shores Schools, AL; former Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay

Nancy Blanco

UAB's ESL program is successful because it's powered by great people. All my professors and instructors were expert teachers and researchers, still, what made my student experience richer and more memorable is that they took the time to get to know me. When Dr. Spezzini advised me, she took my goals, responsibilities, and learning style into consideration, and found a way for me to complete the program while living in Auburn with only one all-online class. Taking classes in-person and Professional Learning Communities helped me build relationships with my instructors and classmates. The annual AMTESOL conference feels like a family reunion! This personal touch is what sets UAB ESL apart.
~Nancy Blanco ('12 MA), Lead ESL Teacher, Lee County Schools, AL

Anna Ramsey

I want you to know how valuable my education in the ESL program has been. I now understand the importance of knowing all of those theorists and theories! I have had to spout off the U-Curve Hypothesis and explain Vygotsky's notion that speech emerges through social interaction. I've also had to explain the difference between BICS and CALP in order to help my coworkers understand that there is nothing wrong with my students, but that they just need time, nurturing, and opportunities to practice and use language in a scaffolded, safe environment. I understand why you had us practice compiling and organizing large amounts of paper and documents in portfolios - there is so much paper work in schools but I feel like I pro at organizing so many documents. I also understand why you made us do so many group projects - collaboration, collaboration, collaboration! Many of my coworkers love the interactive learning techniques you taught us. Our intensive, repetitive work at UAB with IPOTs has also definitely helped me to put together some pretty good lessons at the last minute! Thank you for everything you did to prepare me well for this challenging but rewarding career.
~Anna Ramsey ('12 MA), ESL Teacher in Virginia

Erica (Bell) Turner

I can't speak highly enough of the ESL program at UAB. I often tell my co-workers, peers, and prospective teachers that my graduate experience at UAB fully prepared me for my career. I entered my job knowing exactly what I needed to do to effectively make a meaningful, positive impact in my students' lives and in the lives of their families and my fellow teachers. It is one of the most meaningful things I've ever accomplished, and I'm so grateful for my time there.
~Erika (Bell) Turner ('11 MA), English Language Leader, Saks Elementary, Middle and High Schools, Calhoun County Schools, AL

Tyler Bryant

The ESL program at UAB has provided me with a deeper understanding of second language acquisition and teaching English as a Second Language. It has helped me strengthen my teaching practice by exposing me to "ESL best practices" and has given me a cultural orientation that has helped me to understand and work with my students in a more comprehensive way.
~Tyler Bryant ('09 MA), Web designer (UAB) in Santiago, Chile; former positions: Technology Specialist at UAB; ESL Teacher at Glen Iris Elementary, Birmingham, AL; ESL Teacher at Lado International College, Washington, D.C.

Leanna Ford

I arrived at UAB with an interest in ESL but without education classes as part of my undergraduate degree and unsure of what I should do next to become a teacher, especially since I would be commuting from northwest Alabama. From that first moment and every step of the way since, Dr. Spezzini and everyone involved in the ESL program were incredibly helpful, encouraging, knowledgeable, and organized. Through my coursework, I learned numerous practical strategies and made many friends and connections in the field of ESL. Before I even finished the Masters program, I was blessed with a wonderful teaching job, and I am now in my third year with a group of fantastic middle and high school ELLs near Decatur.
~Leanna Ford ('07 MA), Teacher at Otwell Middle School, Forsyth County, Georgia; former positions: ESL Teacher in California and at West Morgan High, West Morgan, AL; Receptionist in a dental office in Muscle Shoals, AL

Katie Comeens

I really am amazed at all I have learned and feel so prepared to be a great ESL teacher. I use so much of what I've learned in UAB's ESL teacher program on a daily basis and am so, so grateful for the knowledge and skills. Although it was a lot of hard, hard work, I am proud to have been a part of the program. The instructors at UAB are without a doubt the best teachers I have ever had. Thank you for giving the program so much of your heart.
~Katie Comeens ('09 MA), Coordinator - English Learners Program in Dothan City Schools, AL; former positions: ESL Teacher at Williams Avenue Elementary, Fort Payne, AL; English and Spanish Teacher at Shoals Christian, Florence, AL

Mainstream Classroom Teachers (P-12)

Gwendolyn Ramos

UAB does an excellent job preparing educators to be competent and able to work with a growing population whose primary language is not English. Through my Master's in ESL, I was able to learn useful strategies that help students acquire academic language along with their social language. An amazing thing that impressed me the most is that these strategies not only benefit ESL students but also benefit the mainstream students as well. As a Spanish teacher, I have been able to use the same strategies in my classroom. The majority of my students are English speakers but I have students from Spanish speaking countries that take Spanish in order to improve their four language domains in their native language. No matter what subject is taught, a Master's in ESL helps educators to open their minds and teach differently. When educators apply those strategies in the classroom, teachers are able to reach students who struggle acquiring academic language.
~Gwendolyn Ramos ('16 MA), Spanish Teacher at Enterprise High School, Enterprise City Schools, AL; former positions: San Ignacio de Loyola School in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico; Geneva County High, Geneva County Schools, AL; and Coppinville Jr. High, Enterprise City Schools, AL

Margaret Sholar

As a 3rd grade teacher in a school where the ESL population was quickly growing, I needed help understanding how my students learned. After struggling by teaching all my students in the same way, an opportunity came available for me to get my master's degree in just the area that I was having difficulty in. UAB's ESL Master's prorgram literally changed my teaching style and made me a more effective teacher. I started seeing my students grow, learn, and achieve - not only my ESL students but my English speaking students as well. I even started getting feedback from my students about how much better the classroom environment had become. I contribute this to learning how to embrace the cultures of all my students and to encourage them to embrace their home language in our classroom. We celebrated all successes no matter how small. The information about other cultures and second language acquisition was the most valuable knowledge I had gained in my entire teaching career, but the strategies and learning techniques are what brought me to have a desire to leave the classroom and become an Instructional Reading Coach. I became a mentor for other teachers in our county who were also struggling in the area of ESL and even recruited many into the ESL program at UAB. Being in the position I'm in now, I am able to share UAB's love for teaching ESL students with authentic lessons and train mainstream teachers in how to effectively use the Interactive Peer-to-Peer Oral Techniques (IPOTS), named by our own Dr. Susan Spezzini. I will never forget my experience at UAB and credit it for who and what I am today.
~Margaret Sholar ('14 MA), Instructional Reading Coach, Etowah County Schools, AL; former 3rd Grade Teacher, Carlisle Elementary, Boaz, AL

Megan Kerstiens

I never anticipated being an EL teacher when I entered graduate school. I cannot tell you how much my UAB experience changed the effectiveness of my teaching in my high school math classroom and has allowed me to serve ELs in my community. Every time I turn around, I am using information from the program. I don't advertise myself, but I find colleagues are constantly needing me because of the knowledge I gained about teaching ELs. It is really cool! Thank you for providing wonderful opportunities!!!
~Megan Kerstiens ('12 MA), Math Teacher, Bob Jones High, Madison City Schools, AL; former Math Teacher at Homewood High, Homewood City Schools, AL

Connie Ray

UAB's ESL program has made me a better teacher. First I learned to reflect upon who I was in order to determine how my prejudices were shaping my beliefs about teaching. Then I grew by gaining information about other cultures and second language acquisition. I can now be an advocate for my students as well as a trained teacher with a suitcase of ideas to use. I am empowered through this program, and my colleagues come to me for best practices when dealing with ELLs. It is awesome indeed!
~Connie Ray ('07 MA), Special Education Department Head at Moody High, Moody, AL; former Special Education Teacher at Shelby County High, Columbiana, AL

Julie Caine

As a 6th grade social studies teacher, I find that my ESL training helps me on a daily basis. All of my students have benefited from techniques I learned during my UAB coursework. I wish all content teachers would have the opportunity to learn more about their ELLs.
~Julie Caine ('06 MA), ESL Teacher in Helena, former Social Studies Teacher at Montevallo Middle School, Montevallo, AL

The ESL program at UAB provided me with the tools I needed to give ESL students academic opportunities that they otherwise would have missed out on! The program prepares you for a real world application of strategies to assist English language learners to progress along with their English speaking peers. The program is outstanding! Its high standards and exceptional teaching staff made the program truly worthwhile.
~Monique Vandenabeele ('05 cert.), 6th Grade Teacher at Ridgeview Elementary, Orange Park, FL; former Gifted & Talented Teacher at Chelsea Middle, Chelsea, AL

The time and energy UAB has invested in educators has built a powerful program for ELLs. It was such an empowering experience for me to be a part of something so amazing for these children.
~Lisa Essman ('04 cert.), Literature Teacher at Pelham High, Pelham, AL

Mainstream Teachers Who Became ESL Teachers

Erica Kiani Skidmore

Thank you so much for a great summer! The work wasn't easy... but so worth it! I love this program!
~Erica League Kiani ('12 MA), ESL Instructor at Gadsden State Community College's English Language Institute; Teacher at Hokes Bluff Elementary, Gadsden, AL

Candace Hatcher

My MAEd in ESL at UAB not only prepared me to serve my students with confidence with knowledge of best practices but also allowed me hands-on practice to refine my teaching skills in multiple settings. I am grateful for this exceptional learning experience. It prepared me to successfully achieve my National Board Certified Teacher status in English as a New Language.
~Candace Hatcher ('10 MA), ESL Teacher at Providence Elementary and Williams P-6, Huntsville City Schools, AL; former positions: TCLP Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, US Department of State grant award for fully funded Mandarin exchange teacher; Speech-Language Pathologist, Meadowbrook Atlanta Traumatic Head Injury Transitional, Diversicare Health

Lenesha N. Moyegun

What I enjoyed most about UAB's ESL program is that we leave with real resources and strategies that are useful to us and our students.
~Lenesha N. Moyegun ('09 MA), ESL Teacher in East St. Louis, Illinois; former positions: ESL Teacher in Birmingham, AL; Spanish Teacher in Midfield City School System, AL

Patricia Moore

By attending the ESL program, I have gained knowledge and experience that is very beneficial in the classroom and also in the school system while working with teachers, parents, and administrators. I appreciated that the classroom atmosphere of the ESL program is one that promotes success in all students. The completion of the MA program has given me the self-confidence that I was lacking before attending the program. I now feel that I am able to present myself as a person that has knowledge of the ESL student. I think many more new opportunities are available to me and I will not hesitate to reach for them!
~Patricia Moore ('08 MA), ESL Teacher at Williams Avenue Elementary, Ft. Payne, AL (retired); former Instructional Aide in the Ft. Payne City School System

Katie Heck Collins

This program changed my life and I am a better teacher because of it! I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about entering this field. The courses are set up in a way that is conducive to a busy schedule. I was able to work on my ESL certification while teaching and coaching full time. The professors are extremely knowledgeable, approachable and passionate about what they teach and they truly prepare their students for the ESL classroom.
~Katie Heck Collins ('07 MA), Elementary Teacher, Hoover City Schools, AL; former positions: ESL Teacher at Gwin Elementary, Hoover, AL; French Teacher at Thompson High, Alabaster, AL

Jennifer May

UAB's ESL program gave me the education I needed to be a confident and supportive ESL teacher. I have recently been asked by our district's ESL Supervisor to begin an ESL Training Institute for elementary-level regular education teachers. UAB's ESL program is all about compassion for ELLs and brings forth the awareness and tools that make for a strong professional team of teachers across Alabama. I fully recommend this program to anyone interested in teaching ESL - it's the best you will find anywhere!
~Jennifer May ('06 MA), ESL Teacher at Austinville Elementary, Decatur, AL; former 6th grade English Teacher at Cedar Ridge Middle, Decatur, AL

Jan Renfro

When I was asked to do a Kindergarten workshop in Shelby County, they told me that they had seen proof that our ESL strategies were good for ALL learners. I presented things that worked for me, activities that I had seen other teachers use in inclusion settings, and ideas that had been tried, tested, and proven by research as successful for ELLs and all learners. As I went through my ESL course binders, the reading reactions I had written helped me locate points to share from our books and course materials; I wasn't just presenting "Jan's opinion." Even though I had wondered many times why we were having to read multiple sources on similar topics, I can honestly say that the knowledge has been ingrained in me and I know where to locate the resources.
~Jan Renfro ('05 MA), Kindergarten Teacher at Inverness Elementary in Shelby County; former positions: ESL Teacher at Valley Elementary, Pelham, AL; 2nd and 5th Grade Teacher at Greenwood Elementary, Bessemer, Alabama

Oscar Glasscock

Julia Austin and Susan Spezzini really took an interest in me as a person - a bit rare these days within high-profile research institutions - and that made all the difference. I found a lot of common ground with both of them, and that connection helped me to know I made the right decision to pursue certification in ESL. The last two years as an ESL instructor have been the most rewarding of my 15 year public educator career.
~Oscar Glasscock ('07 cert.), ESL Teacher in Walker County Schools and Football Coach at Cordova High; former positions: English & ESL Teacher at Calera High, Calera, AL; English Teacher at Citronelle High, Mobile, AL & Cullman High

ESL Teachers Who Pursued Higher Degrees (EdS, EdD, PhD)

Gwyneth Dean-Witte

The EdS online program at UAB has provided me with a firm foundation in effective instruction and programming to better serve the students and educators in South Dakota. I have to be ready for anything and any question when delivering model lessons, doing instructional coaching, leading technical support EL Team Administrative meetings, and teaching ESL endorsement courses. While I was a bit tentative to take on a two-year online program, the professors at UAB were extremely supportive, knowledgeable and responsive to my learning needs in regard to our state's individual context. I have been inspired by the teachers and made life-long mentors and friends through the ESL department at UAB.
~Gwyneth Dean-Witte ('18 EdS in Education with emphasis in ESL), South Dakota State-Wide Title III and Migrant Consortia Coordinator, Wessington Springs, SD

Suzanne Franks

The ESL program at UAB impacted me during two very important transition points in my life. I had previously earned a master's degree in TESOL from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. As I considered reentering the ESL field after a hiatus of 15 years, I enrolled in Dr. Spezzini's course Phonology for Second Language Teachers. Taking this course helped me decide to apply to linguistics PhD programs and pursue phonology research. The second time of transition was right after I defended my dissertation at the University of Georgia, I was given the opportunity to spend a semester doing research with Dr. Spezzini and Dr. Prado, as well as teaching Phonology for Second Language Teachers as a co-instructor. Both of these experiences and the people I met at UAB were instrumental in launching my current position teaching at a top MA TESL program and supervising instructors of ESL pronunciation and international teaching assistant service course.
~Suzanne Franks ('09 coursework, '15 post-doc), Teaching Assistant Professor and Coordinator of ESL Pronunciation and International Teaching Assistant courses, MATESL Program, Department of Linguistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; former positions: Editor, Graphic Designer, Teaching Assistant for Portuguese as a foreign language and for Linguistics

Stephanie Reynolds

There's no other program like UAB's ESL program! The professors are very knowledgeable and well versed in the field. My educational experiences throughout the program helped me become a better teacher and inspired me to engage in further research on ESL programs.
~Stephanie Reynolds ('10 MA), Doctoral candidate at Alabama State University; Kindergarten ESL Teacher, Alabaster City Schools

Sevim Whitaker

Receiving my Master's in ESL at UAB has been a momentous experience for my future endeavors as an ESL teacher. I have acquired a variety of learning strategies I use with my English language learners. My graduate experience was very rewarding because I met so many knowledgeable peole who were willing to share experiences and success stories on how to teach ELLs. I will always remember my ESL graduate professors because they have left me with knowledge I will always apply and never forget.
~Sevim Whitaker ('07 MA, '14 EdS), ESL Teacher AT Discovery Middle Shool, Madison City Schools, AL; former positions: ESL Coordinator in Pelham City Schools, AL; ALSDE Regional EL Coach; ESL Teacher at Rocky Ridge Elementary, Hoover; ESL Teacher for Jefferson County Schools, AL

Dr. Veronique Zimmerman Brown

Taking the courses in the ESL program changed my way of thinking and teaching. Before the courses, I considered myself to be overall a pretty good teacher. But I also had the feeling that I was not completely reaching my ELLs. That wasn't fair. Now I feel confident that I know strategies, methods, and resources that will help ALL of my students. They deserve it!
~Veronique Zimmerman-Brown ('07 Cert., '11 EdS, '13 PhD), Project Director for GEAR UP Alabama (UAB); former positions: UAB Instructor in the School of Education and Human Sciences; Math Teacher at Montevallo High, Montevallo, AL

ESL Teachers Who Became Coordinators and School Administrators

LaTasha McMillan

Without knowledge of the difficult task of language acquisition, a teacher does not truly understand the multifaceted learning experience that awaits English language learners on a daily basis. These classes have armed me with the necessary tools and education I need to ensure that all my students are given a rigorous and meaningful educational experience. I have learned how to incorporate subject matter and language development with hands-on activities that create a sense of belongling and self-worth in all students.
~LaTasha McMillan ('08 MA, '16 EdS), Assistant Principal at Chelsea High School, Shelby County; former positions: Assistant Principal in Helena; ESL Teacher in Shelby County, AL; English Teacher at Thompson Middle, Alabaster, AL

Susan Blazer

I am very thankful for my time in UAB's MA-TESOL program! The professors and advisors are very personable and responsive to your specific needs and circumstances and provide wise professional counsel every step of the way, even if it might take you four years to complete your degree due to your individual circumstances. I firmly believe that graduates of UAB's MA-TESOL program are some of the best-prepared and equipped ESL professionals around because in addition to sound language acquisition theory training and cultural awareness training, every class you take is extremely practical, helping you put the theory into practice from the start.
~Susan Blazer ('11 MA-TESOL), Academic Program Manager of the English Language Programs at INTO UAB; former positions: Assistant Director of the English Language Learner Institute at Samford University; K-12 ESL Teacher, Jefferson County Schools and Birmingham City Schools, AL

Demica Sanders

The support system that the ESL program offered was valuable to me because I made connections that can assist me anytime that I may need it. If I had to describe the program in one word, it would be "family." Each cohort is like an extended family. I would suggest this program to any student who may decide to embark on this incredible journey.
~Dr. Demica Sanders ('08 cert., '10 EdS), Director of Professional Learning at Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools; former positions: Director of Special Education for Midfield City Schools, Midfield, AL; Special Education Teacher in Birmingham City Schools

Ramona Hart Hicks

In all my years of education from psychology to business management, and from higher education and now to ESL, I have never encountered a program that is this organized and student-centered. I am really, truly impressed with how Dr. Spezzini and her colleagues have put this program together. I am honored and excited to be a part of it!
~Ramona Hart Hicks, EdD ('09 coursework), Director of Medical Education and Student Services, UAB Undergraduate Medical Education; former positions: Program Manager of Vision Science UAB's School of Optometry; ESL Instructor at UAB's Smolian International House

Joan Greene-Fisher

When I was in the ESL program at UAB, I was teaching in a middle school with many ELL students and found the knowledge I gained from the program to be extremely beneficial. I now work with technology at the State Department of Education, where an understanding of ELL students has proved invaluable in designing and implementing technologies solutions to meet these students' needs.
~Joan Greene ('04 MA), Technology Education Specialist, Alabama State Department of Education, Montgomery, AL; former Business Education Teacher at Riverchase Middle, Pelham, AL

Janet Smith

You have a SUPERB ESL program at UAB!
~Janet Smith ('01 cert.), ESL Program Area Specialist for Shelby County Schools (retired); former Spanish Teacher at Pleasant Grove High, Pleasant Grove, AL

Kathy Nichol

The ESL program at UAB is exceptional, effective, and enjoyable! Thank you for the valuable support you have provided to our district.
~Kathy Nichol, PhD ('04 cert.), Supervisor of Gifted Education, Baldwin County Schools, Alabama; former positions: ESL Supervisor for Baldwin County Schools; Special Education Teacher in Loxley, AL

I LOVE that UAB was not a degree that was easy and easily obtained!
~Dolly Smith ('04 cert.), ESL Coordinator for Alexander City Schools (retired); former English Teacher at Benjamin Russell High, Alexander City, AL

ESL Teachers Who Became Course Instructors and Supervisors at UAB

Holly Hubbard

The ESL program at UAB is the best training I have received as a teacher. I learned not only the theories of second language acquisition but also the strategies of how best to reach English language learners. Having certification in ESL also opened doors for me to teach secondary ESL at the Dresden International School in Germany and to explore the world!
~Holly Hubbard ('04 MA, '14 EdS), Doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama and ESL Teacher in Etowah County; former positions: ESL Teacher in Dresden, Germany; Social Studies Teacher at Oak Mountain Middle, Shelby County, AL

Cindy Hunt

Comfortable teaching strategies were proving to be ineffective for the ELLs in my Physics, AP Physics and Physical Science classes. In the UAB program, misconceptions were replaced with valid information and teaching strategies. I have been forever changed by a new understanding of what it means to be an effective teacher for ALL students. With the right information, any teacher can offer ELLs more than just a "chance" for academic success.
~Cindy Hunt ('06 cert., '13 EdS), ESL Instructor at Columbus State, GA; former positions: ESL Teacher and Track Coach at Auburn High, AL; Physics Teacher at Austin High, Decatur, AL

Ann Betbeze

Because all of our classes followed National Board Standards in English as a New Language, achieving National Board Certification was just a matter of writing lesson plans the way I had learned in the UAB program. This has opened many doors for me, as well as given me opportunities to earn a little extra money. Thank you!!
~Ann Betbeze ('04 MA, '12 EdS), ESL Teacher at Calera Elementary, Shelby County; former positions: ESL Teacher at EPIC Elementary, Birmingham, AL; Elementary Teacher in the Birmingham City Schools

DeAnna Buhl

Before I started the ESL teacher education courses, everyone told me that hands-down, UAB has the best graduates. So I thought I would learn something so unique that I would be different from other teachers. I wanted to stand out. Through this program I have found answers to many questions that I had not been able to answer until now. I feel more confident than ever. I now realize that the most amazing thing someone can learn is why ELLs have the problems they have and through understanding we are able to help.
~DeAnna Buhl ('09 MAEd, '12 EdS), ESL Teacher in Etowah County; former positions: Spanish Teacher at Brookhaven Middle, Decatur, AL; Commercial Sales Manager at Advance Auto Parts, Decatur, AL

Lisa Preston

I've always been fascinated with languages and culture; therefore, earning a Master's in ESL Education was the perfect path for me. It is remarkable how the knowledge and experience I gained in the program helped prepare me for a move to the other side of the world! I am so much more aware of dialectical and cultural differences - this awareness has helped ease my transition and has basically prevented any "culture shock."
~Lisa Preston ('07 MA), Webmaster (UAB), Whakatane, New Zealand; former positions: Data Administrator, Technology Department, Shelby County Schools, AL; French and Spanish Teacher at Chelsea High, Shelby County Schools, AL

Bryan Lowry

Teaching is my calling; I love it. However, a calling and the knowledge to do it are very different things indeed. I had been teaching ESL for three years overseas before beginning UAB's ESL program. Had it been reversed, my practice would have been not only more informed, but of much more benefit to my students and me. Not esoteric, but practical is their mantra. I was taught a combination of the hows and whys, and the use of these from a practitioner's standpoint. The support and beliefs of the professors have forever and always been the true reason for the success of the program. So go ahead - free your mind and along the way help others to free theirs!
~Bryan Lowry ('07 MA), ESL Teacher at INTO UAB English Language Programs; former positions: ESL Aide at Thompson Middle, Alabaster, AL; English Instructor at AEON Language Schools, Yokohama Japan