Established in 2023, this yearly award is granted to the assistant lecturer(s) demonstrating excellence in teaching a foreign language.
2023 Award Winners
Lyr Colin (French)
Ph.D Graduate Student (4th year) in the Media track of the Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture (CSLC)
Mr. Lyr Colin began his teaching assignment in Fall 2018. He participated in a two-week intensive foreign language teacher training workshop, which is required for all new foreign language Assistant Lecturers. Lyr seamlessly combined the communicative approach and direct, inductive method used in the Department of French at USC. He employs this technique with conviction and effectiveness while teaching first and second-semester French courses. All communication is in the target language, and activities are contextualized and meaningful. The students exhibit their comfort with this method, evidenced by their asking and responding to questions. It is a clear indication of Lyr’s successful interpersonal activities in teaching French.
Moreover, Lyr participated in organizing the “Journée de la francophonie” held in March 2022. Thanks to his collaboration and hard work managing one of the information stands, the “Journée de la francophonie” was a well-attended and successful event. Additionally, Lyr and Melek Chekili (another AL) took the initiative in January 2022 to create a bi-weekly event called “En Chant,” which introduces students to singers and songs from a wide range of styles and francophone regions. During both Spring semester 2022 and Fall semester 2022, Lyr and Melek emceed the event twice a month and devised new ways of engaging students of various levels in level-appropriate activities and discussions of songs and music, including an analysis of lyrics and sing-alongs, in a warm and welcoming environment. He strived to create a sense of community in and out of the classroom for students and colleagues.
Lyr’s superior organizational skills, teamwork, initiative, clear thinking, and poise were impressive. He integrated into our instructional team with ease and collaborated effectively with our instructors, especially in the use of multimedia, selection of authentic texts, and design of appropriate activities. His contributions during our sectional test preparation meetings were timely, constructive, and to the point.
Lyr is a dedicated instructor with a passion for teaching who strives to improve and enhance his instructional skills. His generosity and dedication have made him an invaluable member of our teaching team. The committee was impressed by Lyr’s outstanding contributions in teaching, program development, and materials design, and fully agrees with his nominators to award Mr. Lyr Colin for his outstanding achievement as an AL.
Sarah Matthews (Russian)
Ph.D. Candidate (ABD) in Slavic Languages and Literatures
Sarah’s passion for teaching was inspired by her own experience as a Russian language learner. She is able to explain grammar and vocabulary in a way that not every native speaker can, and she perfectly understands the challenges that students, especially at the novice level, face and how to guide them. She can find examples and tailor her explanations to complement the textbook, yet help students see the concept in a different light, often more clearly. Sarah is a creative teacher who brings something interesting to every class, whether it’s cards with active vocabulary with which students play or photos of her family to introduce new and practical vocabulary. Her classroom is a dynamic and active space.
Sarah creates a positive and supportive class atmosphere. Her genuine care for her students’ progress is demonstrated in her ever-present smile and verbal and non-verbal encouragement of students. She is generous with praise while keeping the expectations high. She also makes sure that students treat each other with respect and care and monitors pair and small group work to ensure that no one dominates the conversation and that students who need more help get the support they need from her or fellow students.
Sarah has consistently attended events hosted by the PhD Academy at USC and is on track to receive the PhD Academy Certificate in Communication, Leadership, and Management. One of Sarah’s most remarkable characteristics is her ability to hear feedback and learn from it.
Sarah’s background as an American who learned Russian as a second language has made her particularly sensitive to the potential struggles and challenges that students face when they start learning the language. She draws on her own experience to help students develop a sense of ownership of the Russian language. She also introduces her students to the cultural richness and diversity of the Russian-speaking world through a variety of resources and her own personal experiences.
About the Award
This yearly award is be granted to the AL who demonstrates excellence in teaching a foreign language. An honorable mention may be granted when appropriate. Nominations will be made by the department representative, such as language program director, the department chair, or DGS.
Recipients of this award will be granted an AL Teaching Excellence Award Certificate. They will also receive reimbursement up to $300 for professional development activities (attending conferences, workshops, association memberships etc.)
Who can apply: Only one nomination from each department/program will be accepted each year. Any PhD student who has taught a language class at USC in the past 12 months is eligible.
The nomination packet should include the following:
A letter of nomination provided by a teaching supervisor, department chair or BLP director that outlines the candidate’s qualities for nomination and includes a paragraph-length report from a recent class observation (within the current or immediately preceding academic year). Ideally, the nomination letter would address:
The nominee’s dedication to students’ linguistic and cultural development.
The nominee’s commitment to professional growth, including participation in pedagogical workshops, conferences, programs, etc., and potential to contribute to the field of language pedagogy.
The nominee’s innovations in teaching, including the development of teaching materials (traditional or digital).
The nominee’s efforts to promote target language and culture through organizing and participating in extracurricular activities or other outreach work.
The nominee’s commitment to fostering students’ understanding of cultural and linguistic diversity of the target language world, creating an inclusive classroom environment, and practicing equitable pedagogical approaches.
A one-page teaching statement, in which the nominee reflects on their own teaching, their teaching philosophy and practices, and commitment to teaching the target language. The statement should include the nominee’s future goals for language teaching, innovations in teaching and assessment, as well as examples of how the nominee engages students in developing their linguistic and cultural proficiency in and outside the classroom. Nominees are encouraged to comment on the ways in which they seek to create an inclusive, equitable, and diverse learning environment in their language classroom.
Lesson plan or powerpoint used for instruction annotated by the candidate, up to 3 pages.
Nominations must be submitted by the department representative electronically by February 1, 2024. Nominations will be reviewed by the Award Committee, and awardees will be announced in the Spring 2024.
2023 Award Committee Members
Jenifer Crawford, Professor of Clinical Education, Rossier School of Education
Peyman Noujoumian, Associate Professor (Teaching) of Persian, Director of the Persian Language Program, Department of Middle East Studies
Hagit Arieli-Chai (chair), Lecturer, Director of the Hebrew Language Program, Hebrew Union College