The MA in TESOL program at Ohio Dominican University recently recruited Dan Fleck, a distinguished member of the TESOL community in Ohio, as an adjunct professor.
We would like to know a little about your background: Are you an Ohio native? Where did you go to school?
Yes, I am an Ohio native. My hometown is Tiffin. I did my undergraduate studies at St. Meinrad College of Liberal Arts in Indiana, where I got my B.A. in Philosophy.
How did you get involved in TESOL?
After I completed my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to teach English part-time in a school run by Benedictine monks in Huaraz, Peru, a small town in the Andes. After doing this for about a year, I went to Lima, Peru where I found a full-time job as an EFL teacher in an institute called Brown’s Academy of Languages and Commerce, which focused on teaching English to adults and providing bilingual secretarial classes. I really enjoyed teaching at Brown’s Academy, and I stayed there for ten years both as a teacher and as director of one of the academy branches.
In 1978, my wife, three children and I came to Ohio, and I got a job teaching in an adult education program for settled-out migrant farm workers in Defiance. The goal of the program was to provide ESL and basic education classes to help participants prepare to take the GED, and also to provide the participants with job readiness skills. I taught in this program for four years. By this time, because I enjoyed teaching ESL so much, and because of my practical experience, I knew that this was the field in which I wanted to be involved on a long-term basis. Also, I knew that I would need to get more formal training if I wanted to continue in this profession. So, in 1982 I applied for a fellowship offered by The Ohio State University in a graduate program focusing on ESL, bilingual and multicultural education. Fortunately, I was accepted in the program. I enjoyed and benefited from the courses so much that I decided to continue in the Ph.D. program at OSU after getting my M.A.
Then, in 1986, I had the opportunity to be hired at the Ohio Department of Education as a consultant in the Lau Resource Center, where I worked until my retirement this past January. As a consultant at ODE, I provided technical assistance, training and resources to teachers who teach English Language Learners in PreK-12 schools in Ohio. Also, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as adjunct professor at ODU, The University of Findlay and OSU, where I’ve taught a variety of graduate-level courses relating to ESL, bilingual and multicultural education. I’m really glad (and fortunate) to have had the opportunity to work many years in this great profession.
What values or theories of education inform your teaching?
In general, I “buy into” the constructivist theory of education (Jean Piaget John Dewey, Maria Montessori.) Based on this theory, learners actively engage in constructing new knowledge by taking part in authentic learning activities in meaningful contexts. In the constructivist view, learning is a collaborative process and involves social negotiation with fellow learners. The teacher is considered a guide and mentor rather than the sole source of information. Consequently, the teacher’s role is to provide opportunities for learners to take part in real-life problem solving activities that allow for reflection on prior experiences and exploration of new ideas. Cooperative learning and task-based learning coincide with the constructivist theory of education.
What can ODU TESOL students expect from you as a teacher?
In my classes, I try to model and demonstrate what I consider to be important principles of education. For example, I believe that the students and teacher should have a shared understanding of the learning objectives for each class session. Also, I believe that it is helpful for students to have a preview of the learning activities planned to help achieve the objectives. For that reason, at the beginning of each class I provide an agenda which lists the content objectives and planned activities for the day. I do my best to make sure that students clearly understand expectations regarding assignments and grading criteria. Since I believe that the teacher is not the only source of information to help students construct new knowledge, I provide a variety of resources during my classes including videos, samples of educational materials and assessments, samples of ELL students’ work, and web-based resources. I provide opportunities for students to participate in small-group activities during which they can share prior experiences and information, and then cooperatively construct new knowledge and ideas. During my classes I encourage questions and comments, and I give value to students’ contributions to the learning process.
Do you have any advice for new teachers in this field?
Establish and maintain connections with fellow professionals in the field. I see that TESOL program participants at ODU already have made a good start on this practice by establishing the TESOL Graduate Student Organization at ODU, and by sharing ideas, information and resources via The TESOL Compass, an ODU student online publication. In addition, ODU students attend and present at conferences such as the Ohio TESOL Conference. So, I would say to be sure to continue these kinds of professional connections after graduating from ODU.
Do you have a favorite place in Columbus?
My wife and I like to spend time at a local Barnes and Noble’s store at least a couple times a month, where we look over newly published books (that we might like to read later on) while enjoying a cup of coffee and a snack.
What is one quirky aspect of your personality?
I like to kid with my children and grandchildren while pretending to be serious (kind of a dry humor). But my children say that they can always tell when I am kidding because of the way my chin looks when I’m talking. They call it Dad’s “round chinning.”