Kristen Prillwitz ’06
Kristen Prillwitz wanted to make a difference. For as long as she could remember, she had wanted to be a teacher. She’d always loved learning and dreamed of sharing that love with others. Inspired by her mom, an elementary ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, and her dad, a high school guidance counselor, Kristen enrolled in APU’s field-based Master’s program in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) to help reach her goals.
Kristen soon discovered the tremendous flexibility that the TESOL program gave her. The field-based approach allowed her to complete her degree while teaching American and British literature at a teacher's college in China. Kristen spent an intensive two weeks attending classes on the APU campus during the summer, then returned to her job in China, finishing up her TESOL coursework remotely, via e-mail and computer, for the fall semesters. The process was similar for the spring semesters, except that the APU professors would fly to Thailand in January for another intensive session of classes.
Kristen said that APU’s well-thought-out methodology in arranging classes gave her confidence. “Being able to teach while doing my coursework made the classes seem really applicable,” Kristen said. “We were able to try out what we were learning, and were taught to reflect on what we’d learned – how could we improve on our teaching methods?” She said the classes were “great” because when they learned something new, they could immediately put it into practice. Kristen loved that she was continually developing new skills and making them “S.O.P.” – Standard Operating Procedures – in her classroom!
APU’s TESOL professors emphasized the importance of learning from current research in the field, applying that research to one’s own teaching, and then reflecting on the outcomes. This integrated manner of learning and teaching became foundational to Kristen’s approach to the classroom. On one occasion, as Kristen was taking an APU “Action Research” course, she was challenged to choose an aspect of her teaching that she wanted to change. She decided to offer students a series of different choices concerning homework. Through this change, she wanted to see which choices fit the students’ needs best and which choices motivated them more. She then analyzed the results and used them to make improvements in her teaching. She said the process was very rewarding, and she was able to see her teaching improve as she moved through the phases of research, application, and reflection.
After graduating from APU’s TESOL program, Kristen moved to Minnesota to teach English to high schoolers. She recently finished her second licensure, in English as a Second Language, at a local university. She commented on her disappointment that the Minnesota school she attended wasn’t “challenging like APU.” She said, “APU pushes you to do your best. They made me care about working hard, because the professors cared.” She said that at her local university, she did not see “the same passion or dedication on the part of the professors” as she had seen at APU.
Kristen sums it up this way: “APU certainly has a high quality MA TESOL program, and I’m grateful that the English Language Institute/China (who works in conjunction with APU) provided the opportunity for me to serve and study concurrently.”