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Selkirk College TESOL Program Brings International Experience Home

Emily Kandborg is gaining a world of experience at home in the West Kootenay after taking the TESOL Program at Selkirk College. She teaches English as a Second Language with Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy. Selkirk College photo

Selkirk College’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Program has brought a world of cultural experiences to one alumna who’s chosen to build a career at home in the West Kootenay.

Emily Kandborg teaches English to speakers of other languages with the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, a non-profit organization providing literacy programs for children, families, adults and seniors in the region. She currently teaches four classes – one in Trail, Rossland and two in Nelson – to students from around the world.

“Learning and teaching culture is my passion,” says Kandborg. “And while my students are here learning English and what becoming Canadian is about, I get the opportunity to learn everything about them as well. Being able to give them the language tools to express themselves and share their culture is the most gratifying thing.”

For Kandborg, the path to Selkirk College’s TESOL Program started with a childhood connection to other cultures. Growing up in Genelle, her family hosted Selkirk International students – many became friends who she stays in touch with today.

After graduating from Rossland Secondary School in 2008, Kandborg explored her passion for other cultures while studying Media & Cultural Studies at Okanagan College in Kelowna. She then went on to the Critical & Analytical Studies Program at University of British Columbia Okanagan and achieved her degree in Cultural Studies.

Kandborg moved back to West Kootenay, renewed her connection to Selkirk College and took the TESOL Program, getting her certification in 2013. Classes are offered in one intensive four-month semester. TESOL includes course work in the areas of second language acquisition theory and linguistics, curriculum design, materials development, intercultural communication, grammar, phonology, classroom management, multi-media resources and assessment. A critical component of learning is the practice component, says Kandborg.

“The program is amazing,” she says. “You actually go into the classroom and teach, using the skills you learn. The transition between learning the skills and actually delivering them in the classroom was really helpful. Not all TESOL programs offer that practicum time and that makes all the difference.”

After graduating with her Advanced Diploma in TESOL, Kandborg enrolled in Selkirk College’s International Practicum program which allowed her to further develop her teaching skills abroad – in this instance in China. Many students who take the TESOL Program have aspirations of travel and on the heels of her Chinese practicum, Kandborg visited a friend and fellow TESOL alumna in Thailand. Then she returned home to the West Kootenay.

“I came home with the intent to continue teaching abroad. But I just got settled again in the area after being away from home for so long,” Kandborg says. “My roots are here. I recognize what’s special about the Kootenays and that’s what is bringing my students here. It’s cool to be able to share that similar passion.”

And she saw the need for her teaching skills here. In January 2015 Kandborg started working with Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy.

“I ended up with this amazing organization,” she says. “There are many immigrants in this area coming from all over the world. It’s important that there is support here for them – not just with language acquisition but also to help them become settled in this area. My job is to give them language but it’s also important that I am teaching them about Canadian culture and what it means to live in a Canadian society, about community – and that’s the neat part.”

Kandborg teaches students from Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, China, Korea, Japan, Brazil, Syria, Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran and the Philippines. She has classes where no one speaks the same language. She has classes where students are professionals in their home country learning beside people with minimal reading and writing skill in their own language. She is teaching refugees and permanent residents.

“They’ve all come from different backgrounds. Everyone has these different struggles that they come from and everyone is so resilient. Many have come from war torn countries and they’ve seen more than I will ever see,” says Kandborg.

As diverse as the class make up, all share a common bond.

“Everyone is so determined to learn,” she says.

Learn more about the TESOL program at selkirk.ca/tesol and Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy at www.cbal.org