At IEI, we want to take the opportunity every now and then to give you a better introduction to someone on our faculty or staff. Today, I want to take the opportunity to share a little more about one of our newest teachers, Elise Brittain.

Knowing how we Americans have a tendency to pronounce words and names differently than they are pronounced in the countries they originated in, I assumed that Elise’s last name would be /brɪ téɪn/ with the second syllable the same as in ‘obtain’. However, three terms (yes!) after she began working with us, she overheard me pronouncing her last name as such, and politely replied with a smile, “It’s actually pronounced just like the country.” As the idiom says and my introduction implies, “appearances can be deceiving.” Elise is no exception…

On first encounter, Elise is quiet and reserved but carries herself with confidence and purpose. But in her own words, “While I am quiet, I’m not afraid to cause a ruckus…” (Personally, I believe that is the ‘Kentucky-ness’ in her.) She further describes herself as a multi-tasker with a desire to do and learn as much as possible in life.

I asked her how she made her way into the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), knowing that most teachers find there way into the field indirectly. This turned out to be true of Elise as well. When she started university, she double-majored in English literature and Classical and Modern Languages with the purpose of going on to eventually complete a Ph.D. in English so that she could make a career in children’s literature. After defending her thesis, she decided this wasn’t the route she wanted and began to look for other options. While eating lunch with some older ladies from one of her Italian classes, she met a lady who taught English in Spain. This conversation was a turning point for Elise as it inspired her to research teaching ESL as a career and begin her Masters Degree in ESL at Murray State University. It didn’t take her long to be convinced that she was in the right place.

When asked what she felt was the most challenging aspect of her job, she replied, “…trying to use every experience as a learning tool.” She says the challenge is to look at all experiences, even the bad ones, positively and try to discover how to improve them. I believe that she describes the root of the challenge well for all of us: “It’s difficult sometimes to find the benefit of an experience underneath the emotions of the experience.” Offsetting the difficult-ness of the challenge, Elise says the most rewarding part of her job working with people from different backgrounds and working together to meet their goals.

Finally, I wanted Elise to share from her perspective what it takes for students to be successful in improving their English skills. I believe her response is well put:

“I think it takes a balance of both independent study and interactive study to be successful. I think self-motivation is very important in improving English, whether the motivation is to study at home or just go out into the world and use English. To be successful, a student needs to be willing to take some risks and step out of his or her comfort zone.”

Good advice indeed! We are very happy to have Elise with us at IEI and look forward to working alongside her for a long time.