Week 35: Bunker Hill Community College

Faithful readers of my blog (all three of them) already know that back in January I was selected for The Community College Residency Program. This is a program within the Humphrey Program which provides the Fellows with a one-week visit of learning and exchanging experiences at a community college.

Yesterday I returned from Boston where I visited Bunker Hill Community College along with Siradji Mahamane, a Fellow from the Vanderbilt University.  I applied for BHCC because I wanted to see how  they teach English to speakers of other languages, how they apply new methodologies in language teaching and I wanted to learn more about a new language initiative that they are implementing at their College. Also, I wanted to learn more about community colleges, because I only had a vague idea what they are and how beneficial they are for students. The visit exceeded my expectations.

Our contact person and coordinator was Ms. Zoe Edwards who excellently organized our visit, skillfully coordinated all the activities and events and was very kind, helpful and knowledgeable. Ms. Laura Montgomery, Director of the BHCC Art Gallery, hosted us in her beautiful triple decker on Mission Hill. Laura was so kind to drive us to college and back every day and even though her house was not far from the college, Laura always took a different route to show us the sights of Boston. She is a Bostonian who truly loves her hometown and knows all its secrets and we immensely enjoyed the rides during which she shared her stories about Boston and the Bostonians with us.

On the first day we were introduced to Dean Maria Puente and Ms. Vilma Tafawa, Executive Director of International Center, who warmly welcomed us to their college. After that a reception was organized for us and we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the Faculty and the students from the Community College Initiative Program.

Over the next days we visited ESL classes, talked to several ESL professors, all of whom readily and gladly answered all our questions, shared their experiences and were eager to hear about our teaching practices. They are also very passionate about their work and their enthusiasm was contagious. Time passed too  quickly when we spoke with them and I wished the visit lasted for at least a couple of weeks more. 
We observed several ESL classes and we even had an opportunity to talk about our jobs, our countries and also about environmental issues.

A great pleasure for me was to meet a cohort of young professionals from all over the world who were selected for the competitive Community College Initiative Program. I really enjoyed talking to these young fellows.
The highlight of the visit for me was the Language lab. Launched in 2005 by Alessandro Massaro, who I had a pleasure to meet and talk to, the lab is a place where everyone is welcome to improve their foreign language skills in a variety of ways - by using language learning software, practising on language websites, 1:1 tutoring or workshops - you name it, they will provide it! We even learned Chinese calligraphy in the lab and I wrote my name in Chinese!

Not only in the language lab do the students get whatever they need, but this is a school policy - BHCC is completely student-centered and students are provided with everything they need - education, career and financial planning, tax counseling, child care and also exchange programs funded up to 80% by the International Center.

This visit has greatly contributed to the enhancement of my practical experiences, especially with regard to using technology to enhance students’ language skill and to achieve the required learning outcomes. Learning from educators who are at the forefront of the 21st century education will significantly contribute to building my teacher capacity and to expanding my professional learning network. 

This visit also holds personal significance for me, because it was in Boston three years ago that I first submitted my application for the Humphrey Fellowship Program. I still remember, it was on the night of our arrival that I finally clicked the submit button, after having spent weeks and weeks on writing it, and on the next day I enjoyed exploring the sights of Boston as I was dreaming of being selected for the program. And the dream really came true. 

Our first duck tour ever

With artist and educator Susan Thompson, whose exhibition we visited at the MassArt.
Post about our visit on the Bunker Hill Community College website: BHCC hosts Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows.



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