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ISU English for Speakers of Other Languages Director Leonard to retire

April 30, 2009
ISU Marketing and Communications

Lynn Leonard, director of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in the Idaho State University Center for Teaching and Learning, will retire in June after 23 years of service at the University.

She has had two lives: one in noncredit continuing education and another in English and cultural awareness for non-native speakers of English. Both reflect her commitment to helping others reach their professional and academic goals.

Lynn Leonard, right, at her daughter Laura Dehlia Soldati's graduation from Columbia last May.

Leonard describes herself as the planet's top fan of other people's talents. "I'm leaving the best job on campus. The world came to my office, classroom and home, and, as a result, my daughter (Laura Dehlia Soldati) is a world citizen, open and adventurous," she said.

Leonard has a B.A. in English/theatre/philosophy from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale campus; a M.A. degree in West African theatre history from the University of Ibadan School of Drama, Nigeria; and completed all but the dissertation for a Ph.D. from SIU-Carbondale in speech communication, specializing in oral performance of cross cultural literature.

She holds Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificates from Seattle University and American University, Washington, D.C., and certifications from University of Oslo and University of London in contemporary literature and culture. She honed her teaching skills in Spain, Nigeria, South Carolina (at Voorhees College where her speech and theatre students were Gullah speakers), Costa Rica, Beijing and Ningbo, China.

In 1986 she brought her continuing education experience from Denver, Colo., to ISU to design a new non-credit and conferencing unit for the Office of Continuing Education where she became a driving force behind 400 offerings at sites throughout the ISU service area.  Her favorite professional continuing education projects included the Idaho Health Conference, the first statewide use of the Idaho distance learning satellite system to deliver nursing continuing education teleconferences, and first statewide continuing education conferences for licensed cosmetologists. Developing the CommUniversity wing was her passion with a special fondness for the ISU Children's Chorus, Summer Music Camp, Camp YES (Young Explorers in Space), and revival of the Foreign Language Fair, which continues to bring hundreds of area high school students to the campus annually.

In 1992 ISU President Richard Bowen and Dean of Student Affairs Janet Anderson invited her to create a program for non-native speakers of English. English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) has grown from tutoring for five students to multiple services in Pocatello and Idaho Falls dedicated to retention and academic success. This year 289 domestic and international students, international teaching assistants, faculty, visiting scholars and postgraduates were assisted.

She has continued to tap the talent of community leaders and ISU scholars, this time as resources for ESOL students. Offerings include credit courses, workshops, research skills, assessments and one-on-one tutorials. Co-Instructor Sue Akersten incorporated Skype for online instruction.  In a 14-year collaboration between ESOL and Janene Willer, clinical supervisor in ISU's Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders/Education of Deaf, 110 clinicians learned multilingual diagnostic and dynamic assessment strategies working with 300 non-native speakers of English. The Accent Modification Evaluation was unique in 1995; now there are several in the nation.

She will miss her long-time Center for Teaching and Learning colleagues who she said are “thoughtful, capable, eager to work together.” One example was her collaboration as lead author with former Center for Teaching and Learning Director Edward Nuhfer, ESOL instructor Sue Akersten and Steve Adkison, then Writing Center director, on a chapter for “Teaching Inclusively: Theoretical Frameworks and Useful Models” (New Forums Press). That chapter, “Defining the Shape of Diversity Pedagogy,” drew on a broad range of theories about learning and diversity and described how the center’s approach goes beyond knowledge about differences to real engagement with differences.

She equates her years at ISU with Forrest Gump's box of chocolates.

“I was able to unwrap possibilities, never knowing what anything would 'taste' like,” she said. “That was the hook at the end of the line – the variety and surprise of it all.”

Leonard has invitations to teach in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Chile, so there are many more surprises ahead.


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