COEHP’s Christine Smart Selected to ‘Go Back, Give Back’ to Uzbekistan

May 6, 2019 | Curriculum and Instruction, In the News

As part of the 50th anniversary of the English Language Fellow Program at the U.S. Department of State, University of Arkansas academic adviser for Project REACH, Christine Smart, was recently selected to return to Uzbekistan as an English Language Specialist to conduct a “Go Back, Give Back” project.

Previous English Language Fellows from the last 50 years — Smart served in 2015-16 — were encouraged to enter the “Fellows@50Encore: Go Back, Give Back” project contest last fall. In March, the State Department announced 13 winning submissions. Proposal selection was highly competitive with only 10% of submitted projects accepted for funding.

“The rewards of working with eager, hard-working students, along with the camaraderie with my professional counterparts, made my experience unforgettable and make me want to return,” Smart said.

She’ll travel to Uzbekistan this month to conduct two weeks of teacher training workshops for university professors who teach English as a foreign language.

“Previously, my time in Uzbekistan was devoted to students, but I have more to offer to the teaching professionals,” she said. “I want to go back to Uzbekistan because I want to expose university professionals to best practices for learning language.”

Christine Smart, class trying brownies for first time

Christine Smart shares brownies with Uzbek students during her 2015-16 teaching fellowship

Smart said Uzbekistan is a country asserting its independence from its Soviet past and encouraging the adoption of the English language.

“They are eager to host English specialists and embrace modern teaching methods,” she said. “The people are some of the most welcoming and friendly I have experienced, the food is fantastic, and the atmosphere is quite safe.” 

Smart’s project is designed to meet the needs of the country’s decree to improve the qualifications of pedagogical personnel by offering advanced training in best practices for language learning. The focus of her hands-on workshops with English teachers will include metacognitive language learning strategies and culturally-responsive pedagogy in the context of second language acquisition, effective methodology, classroom management, and assessment of student performance standards. These interactive workshops are designed to be practical so that participants will be able to implement a student-centered, assets-based, cognitive approach to teaching English in classroom.

“The English Language Fellow Program is important to me because it allows for Americans to work alongside Uzbek nationals, not just in a professional way, but also to foster a greater mutual understanding of cultures.”

Smart said she’s thrilled to be heading back to Uzbekistan.

“My experience there was life-changing, rewarding, and eye-opening,” she said. “I made some dear friends while there and will always have a special place in my heart for Uzbekistan.”

For 50 years, the Fellow Program has promoted mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through English language programming and cultural exchange. 

The English Language Fellow Program is the premier international exchange program that allows experienced American English teachers to enact meaningful and sustainable changes in the way that English is taught abroad. Through projects developed by U.S. Embassies in more than 80 countries, Fellows work directly with local teachers, students, and educational professionals to improve the quality of English language instruction offered at prestigious universities and other academic institutions. English Language Fellows are counted among the more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. 

Since 1969, the English Language Fellow Program has sent thousands of TESOL scholars and educators abroad to promote English language learning, enhance English teaching capacity, and build relations between the United States and other countries. On assignment, Fellows conduct teacher training, teach English, develop resources, and organize events and conferences. These projects are challenging and the teachers selected represent the best of the U.S. TESOL community. In return, the program provides professional development opportunities to help participants experience different cultures and build skills that can greatly enhance their TESOL careers back home.

For more information, visit the English Language Fellow Program website.

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