Yoonho Jin, an English teacher from the Gyeongnam province in South Korea, was thrilled with his first visit to the United States. He enjoyed experiencing Washington, D.C., and New York. He was impressed with the George Mason University campus. But mostly, he was focused on learning as much as possible during his month-long stint in Mason’s professional development program for Korean English teachers.
“This was a chance to learn how to improve my English teaching skills with high-quality professionals,” he said. “It has been an impressive program. Everybody’s been friendly and helpful.”
Jin and 19 other secondary school English teachers from South Korea were participating in a series of seminars designed and facilitated by professors and graduate students in Mason’s School of Education.
Sujin Kim, an assistant professor in the Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse and Exceptional Learners (TCLDEL) program within the College of Education and Human Development, said the program was intended to support teachers in adopting practices that encourage interactive engagement with students.
“We are trying to help teachers invite their students to become critical thinkers,” said Kim. “We help them with inquiry-based instruction that is more relevant to teenagers.”
The program, which began in January, allowed Korean teachers to participate in professional development seminars at Mason and then spend almost two weeks in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) classrooms. In addition, doctoral students met with the Korean teachers to discuss different ways of teaching English. Mason doctoral students Hyunsun Chung and Sungshim Choi helped plan and implement the program.
Each teacher in the program spent eight days in FCPS elementary or middle school classrooms, where they were paired with a teacher. In the middle school, they were paired with an English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher.
Kathleen A. Ramos, an assistant professor in the TCLDEL program within the College of Education and Human Development, said the Korean English teachers program was “directly connected to our mission to be leaders in teacher development locally, nationally and internationally.”
“Mason has had a longstanding history of bringing teachers from around the world to Mason,” said Ramos. “If there’s an opportunity to be leaders in teacher development, we take it. It’s part of who we are.”
The teachers from South Korea said they were glad they chose to join the program.
Hyesun Lee, who teaches English to older teenagers in South Korea, was especially excited that the program included time in the classroom meeting students and teachers from FCPS.
“I read that Fairfax County regards its education as its highest priority, and I wanted to see what public school life there looked like,” said Lee.
And Eunee Jung, who teaches English to 13-to-15-year-old students, said she enjoyed visiting the Mason campus, which she described as being “amazing” in its multicultural students.
“The professors are wonderful experts, and the course has helped me reflect on myself and my skills,” she said.
During their time at FCPS, the Korean teachers were also expected to deliver a minimum of three mini-lessons on topics related to Korean language or culture, said Meghan Hyland-Eddy, an internationalization specialist at FCPS.
“We talk to our students about the importance of global collaboration, and this is an important opportunity for them to see that in action, to see that we really do value this,” said Hyland-Eddy.
Richard Pollio, director of ESOL services at FCPS, said he hopes for more opportunities to collaborate with Mason to host international teachers.