LeeAnne Langton, a lecturer in the English Department at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB), has been selected for a prestigious Senior English Language Fellowship for 2012-13, an honor that will have her training English teachers and developing curriculum for 10 months at St. Augustine University in the East African country of Tanzania.
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by Georgetown University, the English Language Fellow Program fosters mutual understanding, promotes English language learning and enhances English teaching capacity abroad by supporting highly qualified U.S. educators in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) as they participate in 10-month-long fellowships at academic institutions throughout the world.
“This is a dream come true for me. I worked in East Africa as a member of the Peace Corps, and when I returned to the U.S., I enrolled in graduate school at CSULB. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to go back,” said Langton. “When my daughters went away to college this year, I was recruited for the fellowship by the State Department. The CSULB English Department gave me permission to accept and I’ve been excited ever since.”
Langton will depart for her 10-month fellowship in January.
One reason for her recruitment, she believes, is her fluency in the Bantu languages of Swahili, used as the lingua franca in East Africa, and Shingazidja, spoken in the Comoros Islands.
“I think it was the combination of my knowledge of these (African) languages as well as my work in heritage language literacy and student success here at CSULB that earned me this fellowship,” said Langton, who also speaks French, German, Japanese, Spanish and Vietnamese. “Plus, I specialize in additive ESL and teaching English alongside other languages and not at the expense of other languages. I hope my work in Tanzania will promote bi-literacy and multi-literacy. I want to support teachers teaching Kiswahili and English simultaneously.”
Langton took her first step on the road to Tanzania this past summer when she attended a fellowship orientation in Washington, D.C. The program included meetings with the Bureau of African Affairs to discuss specific educational and diplomatic goals for East Africa.
“The orientation was very inspiring, and it provided me with information about resources I didn’t even know existed,” Langton explained. “I made contacts with people I’d only read about and with scholars in my languages. I was introduced to Regional Language Officers, including one at the home embassy in Tanzania. I learned about policies and procedures that will govern my 10 months in Africa. In addition to the fellowship’s funding, there also will be a grant to support the establishment of a language-teaching program at St. Augustine.”
St. Augustine University is a secular and private institution for higher learning owned and managed by the Catholic Church, and Langton described the campus as an ideal place to test the skills in curriculum development she has acquired at CSULB.
“I see this as an opportunity for the exchange of ideas,” she said. “I’m not going there to co-opt the university’s program with my program. I’m going there to bring any resources I have to assist with their needs.”
Langton noted that her summer orientation on the program stressed a low-tech approach to education. Power in that part of the world is unpredictable, and program officials warned that fellows ought to be prepared to use any and all resources available. Even with the limitations, however, program officials have high expectations of its fellows.
“Participants in this fellowship are expected not only to present at ESL conferences but to be the plenary speakers,” she explained. “We are expected to publish, to develop and sponsor scholarships, including Fulbright Scholarships, for the teachers we meet. We are expected to create grants. Suddenly, I find I have access to resources and money I would not otherwise have access to. I look forward to empowering other teachers. That means a lot to me.”
Langton feels she is already reaping rewards. “Participating in a fellowship like this gives my work a kind of gravitas it didn’t have before,” she explained. “This fellowship already is rewarding because I find myself repeatedly being told that what I can actually do is more important than what I publish (although that is expected, too). Being recognized by this fellowship has raised the bar for me professionally.”
When Langton returns to the United States in November 2013, she hopes to bring with her a stronger voice for ESL students and lecturers at CSULB.
“I’ve come to understand that ESL is a universal issue and a tool for economic development, she said. “I really think my participation in this fellowship will strengthen my commitment to education and my pedagogy. I also think this fellowship will make me an even more creative and effective teacher.”
An alumna who earned her master’s degree in linguistics from CSULB in 1995 with highest distinctions, Langton was recognized with the CSULB University Honors Program’s “Most Valuable Professor” award in 2011, and she has served as a mentor for CSULB’s Partners for Success Program.