Ray Clark has taught English to Speakers of Other Languages for over 40 years. Ray worked as a faculty member at SIT Graduate Institute for over 30 years. He also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nigeria in the late 1960s and worked as a teacher trainer for Peace Corps training programs for Iran, India, and Korea, as an ESL teacher, as the Director of SIT’s intensive English program, as a faculty member and director of the Master of Arts in Teaching Program, and as teacher-Director of ESP programs in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Istanbul, Turkey.
Although now retired from full-time teaching, Ray still teaches English linguistics part-time in SIT’s MA in TESOL for Practicing Teachers of English (Summer Program). He is also senior editor and marketing and exhibition coordinator for Pro Lingua, a publishing company in Brattleboro, Vermont, which produces language teaching materials.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Ray about his impressive career and his recent experience teaching English to a group of health professionals from Equatorial Guinea at SIT.
Q: Tell me about your first experience teaching English at SIT.
A: In the late 1960s, many Latin American students came to SIT to learn English. They were awarded scholarships to attend various U.S. universities because at that time only affluent people in Latin America learned English. Even then, SIT had a commitment to serving students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.
After my first year at SIT, I decided to look for an MA in TESOL degree. There were only a few such programs in the U.S.
Q: Did you attend SIT’s MA in TESOL program?
A. No, although SIT has an international reputation as one of the oldest successful MA in TESOL programs, it began in 1969, two years after I finished my MA degree at Brown University.
Q: Since then, you became involved with SIT’s MA in TESOL program, didn’t you?
A. That’s right. I was involved with the program in its first two years and again after 1978. I returned to the MA in TESOL faculty from 1991 until 1998. I continue to work part-time for SIT.
Q: What has changed between then and now?
A: When I first started teaching, there was a focus on learning English by memorization. Now, students are more encouraged to learn by doing and experiencing language within a social context.
Technological changes have also affected ESL teaching and learning. On one hand, online distance learning has allowed more people to study. On the other hand, I believe you must learn with other people. Language is social, and it can be difficult to hear slight tonal inflections and gestures via the Internet, even with video chat.
Q: Tell me about your recent experience teaching the group of Equatorial Guinean students at SIT.
A: I taught a group of 8 health professionals from Equatorial Guinea in SIT’s intensive language programs in January. The students were selected to participate in a nine-month specialized training program in malariology. I really enjoyed working with this group. They were motivated to learn and had a wonderful rapport with each other. They also had a great sense of humor.
Heather Beard is an Admissions Counselor for the SIT Graduate Institute.