Thompson’s Promise Forges a Career

Tara Thompson was 21 when she made a promise to her mother, which carried her along the difficult journey to her dream career.

“My mother looked at me and asked only one thing,” Thompson said. “‘You are going to finish school, right?’ I said: ‘Yes, of course.’ “There was no doubt in my mind that I would.”

Thirteen years later, Thompson, the 34-years-old Texan, one of the best-rated professor at KCC, according to ratemyprofessor.com – finished her doctoral program at Columbia University and published a book dedicated to her mother.

She began her career in 2006 at Northern Virginia Community College as an English professor. Thompson also worked as an ESL tutor at the college.

“I got the experience of working one on one with the students and I really enjoyed it. They were hard workers and their intentions were good. A lot of them were coming in and they were just trying to learn how to read and write. I liked the advising and mentoring aspect of that experience, assuring these students that it was ok,” said Thompson.

Two years later, she moved to New York with her husband, she continued teaching Freshman composition at KBCC. She started teaching ESL in the fall of 2009. In 2011, she started a doctrine program at Teachers College, Columbia University and she was exposed to the concept that called Culturally Relevant Teaching.

“And that was when the light bulb went on for me. Culturally relevant teaching,” Thompson exclaimed. “And I realized that it had a name for what I was basically doing in my classes. I was privileging students’ native language.”

Thompson not only uses formal techniques to teach English, but she also builds language awareness. The term language awareness means “explicit knowledge about language, and conscious perception and sensitivity in language learning, language teaching and language use,” according to University of Sydney Papers in TESOL.

“Because I feel like if you build awareness first then those other grammatical structures, they naturally fall into place,” Thompson said.

Putting together all the carried knowledge, experience, self-education and endless love to what she does Thompson published a book in 2018 called “The Mind’s Eye: a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in College/English with Multicultural Population.”

“I was collecting visual data. I studied my students’ visual literacy practices,” she said. “My students would make drawings. Instead of asking them to write a traditional summary. I would say I want you to visually illustrate for me a scene or an idea, or a concept from the book.”

She had a group of four scholars: two from China, one from the Dominican Republic and one from Ukraine. She picked these students for a reason; their native languages are parts of different languages families and their cultural background is completely different from one another.

In addition to visual literacy, Thompson studied students’ media literacy practices. They had a Facebook group and she collected data on how they use social networks to increase their learning experience.

“The Mind’s Eye: a Culturally Relevant Pedagogy in College/English with Multicultural Population” is about how someone’s cultural background can help in learning English.

“And how I, as a teacher, use my awareness of your cultural background to help you as well,” Thompson added.

She believes that English Second Language is a negative tag to put on students and it should be Multilingual Studies instead.

Overall, Thompson is a professional, inspiring, caring, positive and easy going woman. She puts a lot of diligence, time and love in what is best for her students. She pays close attention to the cultural background, native language and personality of everybody who is lucky to work with her.

“I think you think I cannot communicate, but here are my words for your consumption and consideration,” Thompson once wrote in a poem, encapsulating the experiences many of her students deal with on a daily basis. “My mind frees what the page imprisons: the white, the white, the black, the black.”

Author: Anastasiia Stepanova

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