| by Mark C. Anderson

News Stories

Group of TESOL students
Kara Mollano (standing back left) has been sharing what she’s learning in her TESOL classes at the Middlebury Institute with fellow teachers and applying the material in her classroom, where she works with English learners.

For Middlebury graduate student and English-as-a-second-language instructor Kara Mollano, one of her primary love languages is a love of language. 

“My students are getting a lot out of what they’re studying,” she says. “And I know we as teachers get a lot out of our work. Everything feels so integrated in what I’m doing.”

Her passion proves contagious, spread through a learning group she started after enrolling at Middlebury.

An interesting wrinkle there: Mollano currently teaches 3,170 miles from the Institute’s Monterey campus, at Second Start, an adult education program in Concord, New Hampshire. She started at the nonprofit as a volunteer. After she was hired full time to teach English to recent immigrants, her desire for professional growth inspired her to take TESOL courses at the Middlebury Institute—remotely.

“Studying something you’re doing for work is crazy beneficial—everything I’m reading informs my work,” she says. “How to teach speaking, listening, writing skills. I’m thinking about it all of the time.”

Studying something you’re doing for work is crazy beneficial—everything I’m reading informs my work.
— Kara Mollano

After she clicked with the instruction she was receiving at Middlebury—while applying the lessons in real time—she started sharing what she was learning with her fellow teachers and administrators.

They also loved it, and soon they were gathering a learning circle together to review meaningful takeaways and animate further discussion.

“We’ve looked at who we are and how our students learn,” Mollano says.

Mary Nolin is a longtime colleague who feels grateful for the boost in the training. 

“Kara is an amazing colleague and facilitator,” she says. “The experience has been really great—not only in terms of professional development but through a sense of community in our group. We have brand new coworkers and a 40-year veteran of the team, and sharing ideas through a common learning experience helps connect all of us and proves powerful and empowering.” 

A recent group session centered on maximizing student input, small group dynamics, and attendee feedback. 

“Today we’ll focus on learning about learning,” Mollano wrote to the group. “Last time we talked about ourselves as teachers and members of Second Start staff. Now let’s think about what’s happening in our classrooms and with our students.”

Next, they plan to explore the history of the field of language teaching and how methods have changed based on a reading from the book Teaching by Principles, An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, coauthored by Middlebury Institute Professor Heekyeong Lee.

Mollano was first assigned the text herself in a course with Middlebury’s TESOL and Teaching Foreign Language Chair Jason Martel.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with her because you can feel her deep and genuine love of learning,” Martel says. “She’s a joy to teach, and then she’s sharing what she’s learning with people who don’t have the opportunity to take a university course—her getting the information out there and changing teaching is a fantastic scenario.”

Martel enjoys seeing these lessons and insights find traction from one coast to another. 

“It’s great that students are taking advantage of opportunities to reach wider audiences, and that’s an indicator of the efficacy of the online program,” he says. “We’re based in Monterey and have been here for 40 years, but now, in new ways, we are showing people across the world who want access to teacher education how helpful it can be.”

The Middlebury Institute currently offers in-person master’s programs in TESOL and Teaching Foreign Language at our Monterey campus, as well as a fully online MA in TESOL