Elsa Bro MAT ‘03 Teaching the Art of Language
Teaching the Art of Language In the cool dark clutches of Minneapolis’ historic Guthrie Theatre, 13-year-old Elsa Bro was mesmerized as she watched Macbethon stage. She was on an overnight field trip with her eighth-grade classmates and experiencing the world of theatre and William Shakespeare for the very first time.
“The ornate costumes and unfolding drama incited a sense of magic and wonder in me that I wished would never end,” says Bro.
Her fascination with language and culture has continued to flourish since that memorable evening. After earning a master’s degree in teaching from the Graduate School of Education and Counseling in August 2003, Bro packed her life into boxes and moved to the French Alps, where her husband, Laurent, worked as a ski instructor and mountain-bike guide. She had never met his family, spoke little French, and didn’t know if her teaching license would be valid in France. But she decided to take a leap of faith.
“The lure of covering new ground and my desire to discover other modes of living, cultures, and traditions surpassed any fear I had,” she says. “I was especially interested in viewing the political framework of the United States, its values, and its institutions from an expanded global perspective.”
In fall 2003, Bro began teaching English as a foreign language to elementary school children, ages 8 to 12, in a nearby village. She taught in bite-size portions, using visual aids such as flash cards, film, costumes, role playing, charades, and picture books.
“My own experience as a second-language learner helped inform my teaching,” she says.
Bro also has a keen eye for observation and detail. Last year, she wrote an article titled “Lifelines: An Ethnographic Study of an IEP Student,” which was published in the September 2004 issue of English Journal. (IEP is an acronym for individual education plan.) The article is based on her internship experience in a Portland-area high school. She argues that teachers need detailed and specific training to deal with the vaguely defined label “learning disabled.”
“It’s imperative that teachers know why they’re including an exercise or activity in a lesson plan and how it supports learning,” she says.
Bro is now back in the States, where for the last school year she taught high school literature and composition at Westview High School in Beaverton. Actively engaged in learning about multiple literacies, she is also researching and writing articles about supporting English language learners in the classroom, second language acquisition, intercultural couples, Latin families, and acculturation.
This fall, Bro and her husband will be packing their bags yet again-this time for Hood River, where she will be teaching middle school. “I enjoyed the quality of life and slower pace of Europe,” she says, “but I couldn’t quell my desire to teach language arts in the States.”
–by Pattie Pace