EVERYDAY HEROES: ESL instructor finds ways to overcome challenges

Jeff Maloney works out of his home office, which can be challenging when his daughters, Rosa, left, and Winnie, right, walk into the room to help.

Over the course of the pandemic, Jeff Maloney, who has a doctorate in Second Language Studies, has had to make hard decisions about his instruction at Northeastern State University, where he is as an assistant professor in the Languages and Literature Department.

He teaches English grammar, linguistics, and Teaching English as a Second Language, but he is also the director of the ESL Academy. That means he oversees the teaching of students from overseas whose language isn’t quite at the university standard. He is also involved with the Japanese club, and he speaks fluent Portuguese.

The greatest challenge he has faced during this pandemic was the suspension of the ESL Academy. NSU welcomes international students every year, but 2020 was different.

“I read some statistics that lots of universities are operating at 20% international students. We’ve had a hard time finding new students, and we had a student go home because of the pandemic. We’ve had to pivot away from offering intensive in-person English language classes,” he said.

Typically, ESL students take six hours of English language instruction five days a week, and they are given homework and encouraged to attend extra-curricular activities to practice their speaking. Given the circumstances, these classes are no longer offered at NSU, but Maloney hopes that when the pandemic subsides, the program can reopen.

Instead, he is offering community English language courses, and is using his background in technology to spearhead the project. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, he launched an English language course. It is based in Broken Arrow, taught by Assistant Professor Sara Swaim, but it is taught remotely, so anyone is welcome to take it.

The program has also expanded its offerings to include an English Language Learner lab to work with current international students.

Maloney attributes his background in technology to preparedness for the transition last year from in-person to online teaching.

“Last spring, we went fully online, which felt a little bit smoother because my interests lie in technology. Stepping from the classroom to Zoom was pretty natural, though we swapped the bedroom with the office for the first few months, so I could have more space to teach online," he said. “I’ve always been an enthusiast when it comes to computers."

He has worked in language labs prior to coming to NSU – particularly at Michigan State University, where he served in a lab that supported English language learners.

“My interest has been integrating technology into language. I’ve worked with some language teachers to integrate Zoom. I tried to learn as much about it prior to the pandemic," he said.

As a doctoral student, Maloney realized the field had not integrated technology to the point that he wanted to see, so that directed him to where he is now.

Maloney earned his Ph.D. in 2018, the year he was hired at NSU. He earned his master’s at Ohio University in Applied Linguistics, and previously he graduated from Brigham Young University-Idaho, with a Bachelor of Science in Communications.

Check it out

Sign up for the English language course at: https://academics.nsuok.edu/continuingeducation/nsueslacademyenglishlangfundamentals/default.aspx

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