In May of this year, Tanya Bizon, English as a second language for academic purposes (EAP) professor on East Campus, competed with five semi-finalists in the Association of Florida Colleges (AFC) Professor of the Year competition, and will now move on to the final round as one of only three finalists in the state to compete for the prestigious award at the Annual AFC Convention this November in Orlando, Florida.
In the first round of the competition, which was held in Sarasota, Florida during the AFC Spring Conference, semi-finalists were asked to make a 15 minute instructional presentation illustrating their expertise in the classroom. Tanya’s presentation, titled “Tone in Reading,” focused on using students’ existing knowledge about language context in music or conversation to develop their reading skills. To make this process engaging for students, she starts with identifying tone by using pictures, video, music and humor. Students are then asked to decipher the tone of the communication by ranking it on a scale as positive, neutral or negative.
She explained to the judges in her nomination portfolio that identifying context and bias in conversations or reading, usually comes in the final stages of learning English. “Tone affects our everyday exchange,” Tanya says. “Ironically, recognizing tone is one of the most difficult skills for EAP students because it requires not only critical thinking but also cultural literacy.”
To help her EAP students understand the nuances of our language, they participate in an interactive movie making project with the help of green screen technology. The movies are based on books they have read in Tanya’s class.
Professor Bizon is well known by students and colleagues for her interactive green screen teaching creativity, and her passionate approach yields success. According to Linda Neal, dean of the communications department on East Campus and the person who nominated Tanya for the award, “The corresponding level of student engagement is remarkable!”
The nomination and submission process for the AFC Professor of the Year Award is in-depth. Five judges, one from each AFC region, score the nominee’s submission portfolio on the strength of their recommendations, an essay about their teaching philosophy, a detailed explanation of their proposed presentation and their professional service.
For Tanya, numerous letters of recommendation were submitted in her nomination portfolio, not only from colleagues, but from former students. Tanya is able to relate to her students by sharing her own cultural struggles after moving to the United States from Russia which helps to establish a common ground with her EAP students. She explains that many of her students come to the United States from countries that have collectivist cultures, rather than the individualist culture that is emblematic here.
This common ground has helped her tackle tough topics in the classroom, such as her student’s attitudes toward cheating, which she explained, is influenced by culture and social norms – and tends to be different outside of the United States. Tanya also cherishes the value her EAP students bring to the diversity of Valencia by teaching us about cultural literacy around the world. “There is a free way to get this experience, for the world comes here,” Tanya pointed out, “and this world is our EAP students with their stories.”
Tanya has been teaching at Valencia for 10 years and has been a full-time faculty member on the East Campus since 2008.
If you would like to congratulate Tanya on her Professor of the Year semi-finalist win and wish her luck in the upcoming final round this fall, please do so in the comments below.