My name is Riah Werner (pronounced Rye-ah, like rye bread) and I’m an English teacher and teacher trainer with seven years’ international teaching experience. I am an English Language Fellow at the National Pedagogical Institute for Technical and Professional Training in Cote D’Ivoire, where I am developing a national continuing professional development program for in-service teachers. I have taught in South Korea, Tanzania, Thailand and Ecuador as well.
I have an MA in TESOL from SIT Graduate Institute and a BFA in drama from New York University. My teaching career started with a job teaching musical theatre in English in South Korea, which served as a bridge from theatre into English language teaching. Teaching theatre in English made it clear to me just how much artistic approaches can help English learners improve their communicative skills, and drama and music based activities are still a part of my teaching practice today. After Korea, I joined the Peace Corps and moved to Tanzania, where I taught for two years at a secondary school before extending my service for another two years at a vocational college. In Tanzania I learned to managed large classes with limited resources and developed an interest in locally contextualized methodology. I also began conducting teacher training workshops and developed a number of secondary projects to benefit my community. After I finished my Peace Corps service, I enrolled in the MA TESOL program at SIT Graduate Institute, where I did my teaching internship at an elementary school on the Thai-Myanmar border with over 90% Burmese students. During my internship, I developed my reflective teaching skills, incorporated plurilinguistic pedagogy into my teaching and designed activities to make the textbooks accessible to my students. Next I taught at a high school in Ecuador, where I developed project to incorporate Multiple Intelligences-informed activities into my classes, leading to an 1.38 point increase in student test scores on a ten point scale.
My research interests include the role of drama, music and the arts in language teaching, integrating social justice into the classroom, issues of gender, race and language-based discrimination, and developing locally appropriate, hybrid teaching methods that are effective for large classes in the developing world. I have published about the use of Community Action Theatre to amplify girls’ voices in Tanzania and the connections between racism and linguicism. My masters’ thesis was on using drama as a tool for social justice in ELT, with a special focus on embodiment, emotion and identity. I am currently co-editor of TESOL’s Social Responsibility Interest Section Newsletter.