Posted on: August 12, 2014

Professor of the Year 2014

Professor of the Year 2014

UM: First of all, congratulations on your academic achievements, the success of the conference, and for receiving VIU’s Professor of the Year award. What do you like best about being a professor, especially in an international university?

“Everyone at this university dreams big!” says Dr. Rebecca Sachs

RS: Thank you very much! What a humbling experience it was to receive this sort of recognition. One of the best things about being a professor at VIU is the inspiration I get from everyone else who works and studies at this university. I’ve been so impressed with the developments at VIU in such a short time I’ve been here: an inaugural conference, multiple speaker series, new academic programs, career fairs, and more. I see such passion, ambition, and long-term vision among my colleagues, and I was astounded by how many members of the VIU community put their efforts toward helping to make the School of Education’s conference a success – we had more than 60 volunteers! There’s really a sense that we’re all in this together, and it’s easy to be dedicated when you’re surrounded by people who set the bar so high.
And not to state the obvious, but interacting with students from all over the world is a luxury. Every day, I’m surrounded by proactive, fascinating people who are taking risks and challenging themselves to pursue admirable goals, often related to improving life back home based on the knowledge they’ve gained. As a teacher, every year a whole new set of students enters my life, bringing with them a whole new set of perspectives and a whole new set of reasons for me to work on expanding my own mindset and improving myself so that I can try to keep up with all the developments they’re showing! Being constantly surrounded by the drive to learn and grow is pretty energizing.

UM: You have experience at Georgetown, American University, and several other prestigious universities. What was the reason that you chose to be a part of VIU’s family?

RS: I first heard about VIU from Dr. Ana-María Nuevo, a friend and colleague from Georgetown who has taught in VIU’s TESOL program. She mentioned how rewarding it was to work here, and, knowing that so many students at VIU have learned English as an additional language, I was very excited about the prospect of being able to combine my experiences as an ESL teacher with my knowledge of applied linguistics while also helping international students get accustomed to academic expectations and writing conventions in the United States while teaching content courses in linguistics, language acquisition, research methods, and other topics I’m passionate about. I also wanted to get more involved in teacher training, and I was intrigued by the possibility of gaining exposure to such a wide variety of previous educational experiences among the pre- and in-service teachers in VIU’s School of Education.
More generally, I was also very impressed by VIU’s mission statement and philosophy, which highlight the importance not only of academic and professional excellence, but also of values such as integrity, open-mindedness, compassion, collaboration, generosity, and service. During the interview process, it was already clear to me that people here really do take VIU’s motto of “building the future together” seriously, and I was attracted by the fact that VIU is able to make a high-quality education so affordable and accessible to people from all over the world. As it turns out, I now have a lot more reasons to want to be part of VIU’s family, but those were the initial ones.

UM: A “can-do” attitude permeates VIU’s School of Education, as was evidenced by its successful conference. Educators cannot wait to see what the School of Education will do next. What, in your mind, are the next projects, overall goals, or innovations?  

RS: I’m very excited to join Kevin Martin and other SED faculty in announcing that we will be hosting our second Conference on Language, Learning, & Culture on April 9-11, 2015, with a focus on best practices and emerging trends in assessment. We hope that bringing people together to share ideas in this area will help educators, policy makers, and community members to reconceptualize how assessment can work toward meeting the needs and achieving the goals of all stakeholders.
For the Fall semester, we’re planning an Education Summit on the Common Core standards, and we’ll also be continuing with our monthly Voices from the Field Speaker Series, in which we invite local community leaders, teachers, language program administrators, and other visionaries in the field of education to give practical advice, raise our students’ awareness of new trends, and expose them to opportunities for hands-on experience, professional development, and volunteering.
One of our goals in the SED is to promote more research on campus, and with the recent launch of our Master of Science program in Applied Linguistics, I can’t wait to see what sorts of original research will come out of VIU as our students pursue their thesis projects. Among my own projects, the one I’m most excited about at the moment is a collaborative action-research study on pre- and in-service teachers’ attitudes, beliefs, and needs regarding training in pronunciation instruction, which is often neglected in teacher-preparation programs. Our MA TESOL program is already innovative in offering a course focused specifically on that topic, and I hope the results of this study will produce research-based recommendations for improving our curriculum even further in ways that are both tailored to our student population and attractive to prospective students who can’t find these sorts of courses elsewhere.