ACLI Faculty Appreciation Day: new ideas and strategies for ESL learning

On October 13, ACLI faculty from all of NOVA’s campuses gathered at NOVA’s Pender location to develop new ideas and strategies to apply in their classrooms. About 70 faculty members attended the event, which was kicked off by a demonstration of MyEnglishLab, an online program for ESL instructors presented by Pearson Education representative Lynn Napolitano.

“I am honored to be a part of helping and appreciating your faculty and you! It was a fabulous learning occasion for all, as well as good venue for faculty to socialize with colleagues.” (Lynn Napolitano, Pearson ELT Representative)

clockwise from top left: ACLI instructors share teaching insight; Serife Turkol (ACLI-Manassas) greets the arriving faculty; Lynn Napolitano presents My English Lab software.

Learning sessions for ACLI faculty

Three concurrent learning sessions provided attendees with new strategies to help ACLI faculty approach learning and language challenges that are a part of every ESL student’s experience.

“I just want to take a moment to say thank you for the fabulous day you made for us yesterday.  The presentations were very motivating and provided many ideas for improvements in my own classes. Also, the luncheon was exquisite!!  …Thank you very very much for making our day so special!” (ACLI Faculty, NOVA)

Meeting the Unique Challenges of Saudi Learners in American IEPs
Betsy Wong [], an ACLI instructor at NOVA’s Alexandria campus, presented an overview of the differing educational and cultural expectations to which Saudi learners must adjust when attending higher education institutions in the United States. She offered strategies to help instructors tap into these learners’ strengths in order to navigate a whole new way of learning.

Separating Difference from Disability in an ESL Classroom
Antonina Rodgers, ACLI Coordinator at NOVA’s Annandale campus, led a workshop that explored ways to identify different issues impeding student academic progress.  She discussed different cognitive learning styles and acculturation stress, which may present symptoms very similar to those of disabilities.

Engaging ELLs and Building Student Confidence in Oral and Written Communication: Effective Uses of Web 2.0 Tools
Krisztina Domjan, an ACLI/ESL instructor at NOVA’s Annandale campus, offered participants a foundation for creating stimulating, challenging and engaging activities relevant to English language learners.  ACLI instructors had a hands-on opportunity to learn how to enhance learning through the application of Web 2.0 tools to strengthen oral and written communication skills in their students.

ACLI Instructors led concurrent learning sessions on innovative learning solutions for NOVA’s ACLI-ESL programs.


The morning also found many ACLI faculty sharing techniques and experiences in their classrooms. NOVA is proud to feature instructors and staff who are dedicated to their students, providing a well-rounded learning experience in the classroom and beyond.

Engaging Your Students:
Genres that Work in the Writing Classroom

After a delicious lunch, the ACLI faculty enjoyed a lively presentation by Nigel Caplan, an ESL instructor and materials writer. (his bio is below.) Nigel began his presentation with the question, “What have you written lately?” and waited patiently while his audience responded with the usual: emails, texts, greeting cards, lesson plans, and other daily writing tasks.

“No one in this room, I’ve noticed, has recently written a five-paragraph essay.”

Nigel’s presentation taught the faculty that using different writing genres, rather than rhetorical modes, increases student motivation, adds authenticity to tasks, and promotes writing and language development. He presented three flexible classroom-tested assignments that teach comparative and descriptive writing as well as task-essential grammar in meaningful contexts: an email, a restaurant review, and a real estate listing.

Nigel Caplan shares language-learning insight with ACLI faculty in an entertaining and thought-provoking presentation on writing in the ESL classroom.


Inspired faculty is innovative faculty.

This day was a perfect opportunity to celebrate all that NOVA’s faculty contribute to the ACLI program and their daily efforts both in and out of the classroom to help our ESL students succeed. Teachers enjoyed chatting about classes and non-ESL related matters, and ACLI was happy to host ESL faculty from NOVA’s College ESL program, as well as Virginia Tech LCI faculty.  ACLI hopes to continue its collaboration with area ESL programs in providing professional opportunities for its faculty.

“When I attend something like yesterday’s Teacher Appreciation Day, I typically fear that I will be spending several rather dull hours. However, the event yesterday was excellent. I found Betsy Wong’s talk on Saudi learners in American IEPs to be very interesting and I could have listened to Nigel Caplan talk for at least another hour.  More importantly, both talks provided a wealth of ideas for the classroom. I’m looking forward to the next event.” (John Bennett, ACLI instructor)

Clockwise from top left: Dr. Lorinzo Foxworth, Associate VP of NOVA’s Workforce Development Division, thanks ACLI Faculty for their dedication to NOVA’s ESL programs; A fantastic catered lunch and an enthusiastic crowd; Darlene Branges, ACLI-Annandale, introduces Nigel Caplan.

“The entire day was an enormous success!  Tonia’s ‘Difference vs. Disability’ talk and handouts made me look at the question I often ask myself about a student from a totally different perspective.  Nigel’s presentation was outstanding, thought provoking, informative, educational and…..entertaining.  An accomplished speaker and a thoughtful man.”   (Kathy Ferguson, ACLI instructor)

Tonia Rodgers, Nigel Caplan, and Darlene Branges, after a successful and exciting day.


Nigel Caplan is an assistant professor of English as Second Language (ESL) at the University of Delaware English Language Institute, and he has also taught at Michigan State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia University, and the Wust Summer School in Germany.

Nigel is also an ESL materials writer. His publications include Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers (Michigan, 2012), Inside Writing 2 and 4 (Oxford, 2014), and the advanced reading/writing book in Oxford University Press’s Q: Skills for Success series (2011, 2015). He has also published professional chapters and articles, mainly on the topic of teaching academic writing to graduate and undergraduate ESL students, and he regularly presents at conferences and professional development workshops. Nigel’s blog:

NOVA’s American Culture and Language Institute (ACLI) teaches ESL to students from all over the world. Part of NOVA’s Workforce Development Division, ACLI offers classes at most NOVA campuses and centers and at some workplaces in Northern Virginia.

ACLI offers several language programs for beginning to advanced-level learners. Many of the Intensive English Program (IEP) students have F-1 student visas. Core Skills ESL offers part-time ESL classes for immigrants or students who are in the U.S. temporarily. ACLI Specialty ESL Courses such as ESL for Employment, TOEFL Preparation, and Culture and Conversation are popular with local residents, workers, and students. ACLI also provides customized ESL classes for the workplace through Contract Training programs.



I originally wrote this post for NOVA’s Workforce Development Division blog.





Join the conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s