Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Nicole Brun-Mercer on Working with the American Home

Still working with the American Home after 15 years
Nicole Brun-Mercer

In 1996, I received my BA in Language Studies from UC Santa Cruz and decided to accept an offer to teach at the American Home in order to improve my Russian with the eventual goal of becoming a conference interpreter. As it turned out, I fell in love with teaching and have been in the classroom ever since.

Though my time in Vladimir gave me the opportunity to gain the experience and develop the skills I needed to get a teaching position at an intensive English institute in San Francisco, establish and run my own language school in France, and lecture at a university in Guinea, it became more and more apparent that a Masters in TESOL would help open new doors for me. I therefore recently went back to school at California State University, Fullerton, and have discovered a new love along with teaching:  research.

I had kept in contact with the American Home over the years, providing occasional input on teaching techniques through the newsletter while it was being published and developing some original teaching materials for the American Home's curriculum customization project.

The school in Vladimir seemed like the perfect place for me to carry out my first research project. I wanted to examine the possible relationship between participation in extracurricular activities, on the one hand, and grades, satisfaction, and anxiety on the other, as self-reported by 17 American Home students in a questionnaire. This pilot study, which was chosen for presentation at the annual CATESOL (California TESOL) conference this fall in San Diego, will require replication and extension before the results can be considered meaningful. However, if corroborated on a larger scale, a correlation between grades and satisfaction with extracurricular participation should be of interest to English language schools around the world.

The American Home is more than a language school, and a teaching position there is more than a job. I established lifelong friendships with staff and students, and together we have been able to collaborate on projects in a mutually beneficial partnership. I had thought my time in Vladimir would be just a stepping stone, but I now see that it was, in fact, the cornerstone in my professional life. My two years in Russia have turned into a lifetime of opportunities to work cooperatively with an institution that I will always consider to be my Russian Home.

Nicole Brun-Mercer worked at the American Home from 1996 to 1998 -- the second year as Lead Teacher.  After living in Europe and Africa for over 15 years, she now lives in Fullerton, California where she is completing her MS in TESOL at California State University, Fullerton. In addition to the essays on teaching techniques she has written and course materials she has prepared for the AH, she has authored several plays, a number of poems, and two published novels, The Golden Ring (in which Vladimir and the American Home play a role) and The 18th Hole.



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