Boram Koo

What is your current position?

I’m currently a Head Teacher at UNESCO Global Peace Center (Icheon English Village). My main duties are teaching elementary students around our town and, as a head teacher, I coordinate teaching schedules and curriculum development.

When did you complete your MA TESOL degree?

I completed the MSU MA TESOL program in 2014, and have been teaching at my school since 2015.

Tell us about a story, class, or person, from during your time in the MA TESOL program that had an impact on you or your career?

It’s hard to pinpoint just one, since everything about the program, and everyone I worked with in it, had a huge impact on me. One thing that sticks out, though, is my cohort. We were like family or best friends for the whole two years! We had a lot of Fulbright students from around the world that year in our cohort, so I learned a lot about different cultures. During my BA program, I didn’t socialize with a lot of the other students. I’d just do my classes and go home. During this MA program, though, I really got to get to know all the other students in my class and participate in many events with them. It was eye-opening for me.

It wasn’t just the other students in the program, though. All of the professors were very supportive and were always there for us, and that helped a lot. I suppose I would say that the people would be the most meaningful part about the program.

How did the MA TESOL program help influence your career path?

I knew I wanted to be an English teacher before the program, so a lot of the practical lessons we learned during the classes influenced me a lot. It was really interesting to actually test out my own lessons. In the school I am working at now, I work with a lot of teachers who have been through TESOL programs that were online only or not as extensive, and they didn’t get the opportunity to actually practice their own lessons with students and get advice and feedback from professors.

I think the most important thing that I learned from the program was that, once you make a lesson and test it, you need to be flexible enough to modify it for different kinds of target students. Learning that flexibility and having professors help you adapt your lessons was really crucial for me. 

What was your favorite class in the MA TESOL program, and why?

The Practicum! Micro-teaching is fun, but it is a totally different experience when you actually get to test your lesson plans out with real students! It also presents you with unique challenges that you can only face by teaching a real class.

I remember I had a minor issue in one of the classes I taught concerning one of the students. He was Korean, same as me, but was older than I was. He was in my class and was sort of disrespectful to me as a young teacher. He would purposefully ignore me or question me about my teaching philosophy. I had a hard time with him as a student, and it made me start to question my qualities as a teacher. After that, though, I had a discussion with the professors who were very supportive of me and discussed how the situation was likely just a power struggle between that student and me, as a young novice female teacher. The other students in the class, and all of my co-teachers, were also very supportive. So, that moment influenced me a lot because all of the support I got made me realize “I’m still a good teacher, and I can teach!”. 

What advice do you have for current MA students?

My main advice, especially for International students like me who may not be as likely to socialize with the other students, is to participate in many of the events that the program offers. All of the workshops, the social gatherings, all of it! You get to meet new people and learn new things. To be honest, I think that played a large part in how I got my GA position. I began talking to a student who was about to graduate at a social gathering, and whose GA position was about to be open, and they helped introduce me as a candidate to replace them in that position.  Even if someone is not so used to going to gatherings like that and meeting a lot of new people, I think it’s important for them to do so because it really helps put your face out there and helps you make those connections.