Yoojin Kim has been an English teacher in South Korea’s rural Gyeongbuk Province for the last eight years. She says that her village is so rural that she is the school’s only English teacher as well as their only source of the language for miles around.
“I love teaching English, but where I live there is nowhere outside of my classroom to practice or experience English for my students—not even other teachers or administrators speak English where I work,” Kim said. “It’s very challenging, because there is a lot of pressure on me as a teacher to make sure my students learn correctly and do well on their tests to get to university.”
Thanks to the Korean American Education Commission (KAEC) Kim is currently in Austin to gain knowledge and resources. The KAEC program at the Texas International Education Consortium includes five weeks of teaching methods and on-site residencies in Texas public schools. However as a rural teacher, it is the networking with the 27 other program participants that she was most looking forward to.
“I was so excited to come and learn skillful knowledge and to share and learn next to the other Korean teachers also in the program,” Kim said. “But besides just helping my teaching experience, this is also helping me become a better person by opening my mind to experience life in a different way and not judge people different from myself.”
This is the Texas International Education Consortium’s 18th cohort of KAEC students, which has brought more than 500 KAEC teachers from South Korea to learn teaching techniques, strengthen their English pedagogy and cultural references, and then travel to the Dallas area to partake in a two-week placement in Texas public schools.
“I’m so excited to get inside a Texas classroom and see how it differs from my own,” Kim said. “In our public speaking class, we’ve already been discussing Korean student culture and lifestyles to share. I’m a little nervous, but I’ll prepare.”
The teachers arrived in Austin on December 31st and will return home on February 16th. When they are not in classrooms, the teachers are experiencing as much Texas culture as possible. Field trips have included visits to the Alamo, country western dance lessons, a lot of Texas BBQ, museums, and more.
“We really want these teachers to walk away feeling more competent and secure in their abilities as an English teacher,” said TIEC Senior Director of Global Learning Dr. Heather Farmakis. “However, we also want to make sure this is an unforgettable and immersive experience, and so we do all we can to show them the best of what our state has to offer!”
From rubrics for assessments, many listening materials to run dictation and closed tests, Kim says she already has a lot to take back to her classroom in South Korea. She also says memories of visiting San Antonio and learning the most she can about Texas culture remain strong in her heart.
“Texans are so nice. I’ll never forget arriving on New Year’s Eve and making my first Texas friends,” Kim said. “I went to a jazz club on 6th Street, got a free glass of champagne at midnight, and was able to talk to locals while enjoying the music.”
A night encouraged by TIEC administrators.
“We do our best to encourage teachers to step outside of their comfort zone and really commit to this experience,” Dr. Farmakis said. “From speaking to strangers to staying in someone else’s home, we want teachers to know what it is like to live and interact in the United States. We find this truly helps to solidify their experience.”
This year’s cohort consists of 28 teachers from across South Korea.