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University of Mississippi

Language Instructor Takes Experiential Learning Workshops Abroad

Dinorah Sapp also developed institutional relationships while in South America


Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and coordinator of professional development for the university’s Intensive English Program, visits Argentina to conduct an experiential learning workshop.

Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and coordinator of professional development for the university’s Intensive English Program, visits Argentina to conduct an experiential learning workshop. Submitted photo

The University of Mississippi is leaving an international footprint by educating people around the world with the latest practical information.

Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and coordinator of professional development for the university’s Intensive English Program, conducted workshops on experiential learning to improve English language skills in Chile and Argentina earlier this summer.

The IEP provides English-language instruction to non-native English speakers through differentiated language instruction, cultural activities and community service projects to promote and educate global citizens. The workshop was designed for kindergarten teachers all the way up to university instructors.

At her first workshop at the Chilean North American Institute of Culture in Santiago, Chile, nearly 30 teachers attended the workshop in person, but the Chilean Ministry of Education broadcast the workshop through Facebook Live, reaching more than 1,000 educators across Chile who teach English as a second language or as a foreign language.

“I wanted to show teachers how they could take a lesson and make it come to life beyond the textbook,” Sapp said.

She offered handouts and rubrics so the educators can incorporate effective strategies in their English lessons.

“I was really pleasantly surprised how much ESL teachers want resources,” she said. “They were thirsty for tips and really want to engage their students. I was happy to see such a warm welcome and the extra steps they took to receive me.”

Sapp organized the workshop through the U.S. Department of State’s Education USA program, designed to promote educational and research opportunities at institutions in the U.S. She also spoke with representatives from the Chilean Ministry of Education about the teacher training, graduate work and research opportunities at UM.

“It is a great way to have UM’s name out and to tell people about the IEP program we have,” Sapp said. “Many teachers were asking questions and wanting to come to Mississippi where they can learn English and the American culture of the South.”

Following her visit to Chile, Sapp facilitated another workshop at the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages conference in Mendoza, Argentina. She shared her teaching experiences with other educators and continued to build relationships with academic programs.

This opportunity was funded by a professional development grant administered by the Office of the Provost to help with expenses related to enhancing international connections, facilitating global partnerships and conducting specialized workshops.

Sapp’s trip was largely funded by the grant with additional support from the Department of Modern Languages and the Office of Global Engagement. She was able to connect TESOL attendance with presenting at different educational venues in Chile, said Whitney Sarver, senior director of IEP.

“These types of opportunities and workshops are so important for individual professional development, but also for our profession as a whole,” Sarver said.

The feedback Sapp received in Chile was largely that educators did not have as many professional development opportunities available, so her presentations on teaching and teacher training were valued.

“She is exceptionally good at what she does, and she was able to share her innovative teaching practices with fellow teachers,” Sarver said. “This sharing of ideas is what teachers really value. It is a way to learn about what others are doing and to reflect on what they do in their own classrooms.”

Sapp also can benefit the UM faculty by sharing her experiences with IEP colleagues at the faculty meeting before the fall semester, she said.

“She really went beyond what I expected of her by seizing opportunities and chances to meet with a wide variety of people in the field of English language learning,” Sarver said.

One of the most valuable aspects of Sapp’s visit to South American was the opportunity to introduce the university’s IEP program to international audiences.

“The field of international education has always been one that fluctuates wildly in terms of student mobility, but for the past few years, schools all over the world, and particularly the U.S., have seen a drop in enrollment,” Sarver said. “These trips and opportunities give us a chance to share our university and our programs to students and teachers who might not have heard of us already.

“The international community is often unaware of where Mississippi is and what it has to offer, so when we get the chance to educate the world about how great Mississippi and Ole Miss are, we are happy to take them.”

For more information about the Intensive English Program, visit