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The World Acting Globally

MA-TESOL Graduates Find a World of Opportunities

A Paradise for Polyglots

By Jeffrey Overstreet ( | Photo by Luke Rutan

Once a master's degree student, and now an instructor at SPU, Amilee Roberge (right) discusses a final portfolio project with MA-TESOL student Alyssa Arias.

Five words: “I’ll always have a job.“

Romina Plozza MA ’14 says those words with confidence. After all, she earned her master of arts in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) from Seattle Pacific University.

And here are five more words: Italian, French, German, Spanish, English. Plozza speaks all five languages. It’s no wonder that she’s already juggling jobs.

“As the number of people of all ages for whom English is not a native language increases, the need for trained professionals who are familiar with second-language acquisition theories and practices increases as well,” says Katya Nemtchinova, professor of TESOL and Russian at SPU.

Growing up in Switzerland, which has four national languages, Plozza first spoke Italian, then learned French in elementary school. But for high school, she studied in the German part of Switzerland, with classes in German. She proved so adept at language learning and at helping other students overcome difficulties, her instructors encouraged her to travel to the U.S. and study English at the A.C.E. Language Institute in Seattle.

Once again she impressed her instructors. “They kept on encouraging me: ‘Why would you go home? Why not keep going?’,” she recalls. Even though her student visa was expiring, Plozza was persuaded to apply for Seattle Pacific’s MA-TESOL program. A week after she arrived back home in Switzerland, she got an email: To her surprise and delight, she had been accepted. “I knew that I had to do this, and that I had to do this at SPU.”

Plozza currently teaches listening and speaking courses at Shoreline Community College; and she works for A.C.E.’s World Language and Culture Ambassadors program, as an event coordinator. (A.C.E. Director Timothy Healy, earned his MA-TESOL from Seattle Pacific in 2003.) This winter, she’ll teach at Cascadia College as well.

Plozza praises SPU’s program for its emphasis on teaching demonstrations. “People can learn languages on their own,” she says, “but the SPU program gave us the confidence to go out and teach.” Small, focused classes in which all of her classmates were bilingual (at least) proved to be an advantage. “It feels like a big family.”

That camaraderie is what impressed Amilee Roberge.

“I was blessed to be able to teach at different schools with colleagues from SPU, many who have become my closest friends,” says the 2008 MA graduate. “SPU’s program teaches you the importance of connecting with people who are doing the same thing you are, because iron sharpens iron.”

In 2012 Roberge applied for a grant through the English Language Fellowship, which is run by the U.S. State Department. As a senior English language fellow, she served at teacher development conferences and workshops around Turkey for almost a year. “I mentored 24 English teaching assistants there,” she says, “and I did some curriculum development for an English language program for blind students in Istanbul. Each of those experiences added something profound to my life.”

Plozza, too, finds her own life enriched by the experience of teaching. “Learning German, I just completely lost my identity,” she says. “People didn’t know I’m funny — but I’m super funny! For me, teaching is about giving people their identities back. If I can give somebody the opportunity to be themselves in a foreign language, that is my biggest dream.”