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October 13, 2011

John Nelson, Education, Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Chelsea Williams
Communication Manager, UMBC

On October 1, John Nelson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Maryland Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at their annual conference. The award recognizes his “substantial and exemplary contributions to the field of ESL in the state of Maryland.” Nelson the is co-coordinator of the MA program in ESL/bilingual education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

“When you’ve been doing this for a long time, the number of people you’ve influenced starts adding up,” Nelson said.

Nelson has taught TESOL at UMBC for 25 years, and has helped to educate many of the state’s current TESOL teachers. “There were 300 people attending the conference [where I received the award]. The person who introduced me asked how many people in the room had been to my classes, and more than half of them raised their hands,” Nelson said.

Nelson began his career in TESOL in the mid-1960s as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia. Since then he has taught ESL to elementary and secondary school, university and adult English language learners. He has been a teacher trainer, program administrator and consultant in more than 10 countries on four continents.

Nelson is currently working on a book entitled “Making English Grammar Meaningful and Useful,” which is modeled after a class he teaches at UMBC. In the book, he attempts to demystify the teaching of English grammar. Teachers, Nelson said, often encounter difficulties in teaching grammar because “they can model the language, but they can’t describe the language.”

At UMBC, Nelson has helped to develop the TESOL program into one of the most respected such programs in the state. Today, UMBC’s program comprises over 100 students and awards about 40 master’s degrees each year.

“Being in what’s sort of a new discipline at a new university, and growing as the university is growing, that’s really exciting,” Nelson said.

Posted by chelseah at October 13, 2011 12:12 PM