New Faculty Luciana de Oliveira ☆
When she came to the US in 1997, fresh out of college, Luciana de Oliveira simply wanted to hone in on her English. “I decided to just come and improve my English,” she said. “I was planning on going back to Brazil and starting my own English school.” That goal eventually changed when she met the coordinator of the Master’s program at California State University, East Bay and was encouraged to join the program. Shortly afterward, what she had originally planned to be a short-term study abroad experience became a long-term journey of pursuing her PhD degree and working full time at different locations across the nation. After receiving her PhD degree in California, she traveled to Indiana where she worked at Purdue University for seven years, and she is now snugly settled in New York City with her husband.
“I love the city. I love to just be able to hop on the subway and go to different places and go downtown,” said de Oliveira. Yet her love of the city seems to have nothing on her love of her research and academic interests. As soon as the topic of her research interests came up, she pulled out a Venn diagram of three circles that illustrated three major strands of her research interests. She explained that she mainly focuses on the teaching and learning of English Language Learners (ELLs), on teacher education for ELLs, advocacy, and social justice, and on nonnative English-speaking teachers.
Her research interests mainly stemmed from her own experiences of teaching and also from working with other teachers in various projects and programs. “It really has to do with my experience. I was a high school teacher in California and so I really saw a lot of students struggling with the language,” said de Oliveira. “I just became interested in knowing more about academic language, so really my focus has been on academic language.” Starting from her experience as a high school ESL teacher, de Oliveira further developed her interests as she joined the team at The History Project, part of The California History-Social Science Project (CHSSP), a collaborative, statewide network of classroom teachers and university scholars dedicated to improving classroom instruction, student learning, and literacy in history. Her responsibilities were to help history teachers learn how to teach their ELLs. As she worked with hundreds of history teachers, both elementary and secondary, she realized that history teachers were given many general strategies that were not very specific to the content area of history.
“That’s why I became really interested in history and social studies,” said de Oliveira, “So my dissertation is in that content area of history, but I look specifically at how students were demonstrating their historical knowledge through writing, including both Native English speakers and English language learners.
Such interest in specific content areas and how teachers teach their ELLs eventually led her to delve deeper into the field of teacher education. Here at Teachers College, de Oliveira is coordinating the edTPA (Teacher Performance Assessment) implementation, which started just last year, and is part of the requirements for certification in New York State. She is developing a research project to investigate the experiences of TESOL teacher candidates going through the edTPA process. “Specifically I want to focus on how they are focusing on both language and content within their lessons,” she said. “I feel like a lot of times our teachers in general have difficulties coming up with language objectives and content objectives. So I would like to learn more about how they are doing that.”
One interesting aspect that is in common in her past experiences is that people have always been a huge component of her research, be they mentors, colleagues, or graduate students. From the coordinator of her Master’s program to her mentor in her PhD program and to her colleagues and graduate students, the range of people with whom she has interacted throughout her professional career is wide, and she values such opportunity to work with different people. Currently collaborating with two graduate students on co-editing a book, de Oliveira said, “I think it’s really important for them to have experiences with publishing and so on.”
With two books to publish in spring 2014, one course to teach, and one program to direct, de Oliveira is certainly spending her first semester at Teachers College with her hands full. “It’s a lot of work,” she said. “But it’s exciting.”
Contributed by Jamie Kim
Student TESOL/Applied Linguistics