Teaching assistants under the Fulbright programme arrive in Malaysia to help teach English in schools.
COMING back to Malaysia was all Shins St Germain could think about after she went back to the United States (US) in 2016 following a 10-month stint as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA).
In January this year, she returned with 97 American graduates to carry out their mission as ETAs, who foster a strong command and a love for the English language among school students in Terengganu, Pahang, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak.
St Germain, 23, is heading back to SMK Sri Nangka in Tuaran, Sabah, the same school she taught in last year.
She reapplied for the programme as she is determined to improve what the school has to offer as well as to be with her students again.
“Towards the end of last year, I had many ideas and projects that I wanted to implement in my school, but there wasn’t enough time.
“So I decided to come back to continue working on the projects which I know will be great for the students,” she said.
Recalling her past year, she said all favourite memories revolved around her students.
“They are incredible students. Leaving them was hard and one of them even cried!
“It just felt so great to truly connect with them,” she said.
St Germain said her time as an ETA last year had helped her grow as an individual.
“I became more confident in myself,” she said.
St Germain carried out English camps, speaking workshops and learning through karaoke last year.
Also a returning ETA, Nancy Mangels, 23, will be conducting classes at SMK Orang Kaya Haji in Kuala Lipis, Pahang for the second year in a row.
“I’m so excited to be back and so are my students. They have been keeping in touch with me since I left last year,” she said.
She described her experience last year as “awesome”.
“I love my students. They bring so much enthusiasm and excitement to the classroom,” she said.
She is planning to conduct more English camps, language learning games, speaking activities, sporting events and drama sessions for her students this year.
The ETAs are the 11th batch of ETAs who have signed up for the programme, which started in Terengganu in 2006.
The programme is administered jointly by the Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange and the Education Ministry with volunteers sent to Terengganu, Pahang, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak.
Nicole Young, 23, is here for the first time and is teaching at SMK Parit Panjang Sik, Kedah, for the next 10 months.
She is hoping to use fun actives such as sports and singing to “switch things up” in order to enhance the learning process.
“Having been a student myself, I know that having classes within a confined hall is not enough to spark interest.
“I want to make sure my students get the most out of every day I spend with them,” she said.
Young wants to get to know the people, their culture and learn from the community.
“I’ll just go with the flow as I know this year will bring a rich experience.
“I also hope to be able to impact my students’ lives and the community during my time there,” she said.
Also joining the programme for the first time is Joey Wiley, 23, who will be based at SMK Megat Dewa at Kodiang, Kedah.
Wiley who was previously an exchange student at Universiti Sains Malaysia in 2014, said he was keen to work with students on discovering their passions and expressing themselves freely.
“I would also love to use Malaysia’s traditional music along with western music to bridge the cultural gap among us,” he said.
Speaking at the ETA reception, US ambassador-designate to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir said she was pleased to see the excitement and enthusiasm shown by the ETAs.
“I am very proud of you for taking the risk to join this programme despite not knowing what the outcome will be.
“This experience is going to change your lives. It will teach you about yourself and what you are capable of doing,” she said.
She advised the ETAs to adopt an open mind in order to learn about the country.
Expressing his support for the programme, Education Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Ahmad Tajudin Jab said it is able to bring good progress to the nation’s students.
“With the ETAs’ diverse backgrounds, they will encourage students to learn English in a fun and meaningful way,” he said.