Student Profile

Sarab Yousif Al-Akraa

Sarab Yousif Al-Akraa earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Baghdad University. She enrolled in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages master’s program at UCF after receiving a scholarship from the Iraqi government. One of the many aspects of the program that she appreciates is having professors who truly know their material and are more than willing to provide any additional help needed. In particular, she mentions Kerry Purmensky, PhD, who provided her with advice and guidance that helped to develop plans for her future as an educator. She also loves the huge campus library with all its available resources.

Al-Akraa’s thesis research focused on a textbook analysis of the fifth grade English language textbook which was introduced in elementary schools by the Iraqi Ministry of Education in 2012. Her study reveals the strengths and weaknesses of Iraq Opportunities 3 based on three critical components: grammar, vocabulary, and culture. After graduating, Al-Akraa plans to teach English as a Foreign Language and to apply to doctoral programs.

Corinne Torres

Corinne Torres earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and another in French Language and Culture from the University of Florida. She has always been interested in language structure and acquisition. Growing up, she spoke French, Spanish and English and took all three languages in school, so pursuing a career in teaching languages seemed a natural fit. Her favorite aspect of teaching French in the public school system was breaking down and analyzing the language for her AP students. Currently, she teaches French for Florida Virtual School.

Torres appreciates the diversity within the courses and the many aspects of second language learning that are covered. She states, “It not only prepares you to teach English but to understand teaching methods for second language learning, understand how languages are learned, and requires you to think critically about language learning in general.”  She is also grateful for the support of the professors. Florin Mihai, PhD sparked her interest in research and Kerry Purmensky, PhD helped her to better understand the curriculum aspect of the TESOL program and has shown continued interest in her pursuits of foreign language research. Torres plans to conduct research regarding second language learning through technology.

“I hope to find out what methods work best for online teaching while also analyzing what motivates students the most in online learning,” Torres explains. “My goal is to revamp foreign language teaching in the state of Florida while focusing on online courses since they are the future of learning.” She will complete her degree in Spring 2015 and hopes to continue her education in the doctoral program.

Marty O’Donnell

Marty O’Donnell earned his Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing at UCF, before deciding to pursue his Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). In his final semester as an undergraduate, O’Donnell took a TESOL class with Keith Folse, PhD, which stimulated his interest in teaching overseas. After graduation, he accepted a job teaching English to elementary and middle school age children in South Korea for a year. He loved living abroad, experiencing a new culture and new customs firsthand. He enjoyed the experience so much that he decided to return to UCF to earn his master's.

The close relationships that O’Donnell has developed with his professors are what he has enjoyed most about the TESOL MA program. “I’m on a first-name basis with most of the faculty,” he says. “I can go to them for advice or a recommendation, and they’re always willing to help.” He is particularly grateful to Kerry Purmensky, PhD, who guided and encouraged him throughout the program. “She really taught me a lot about teaching, about how to bring myself and my interests into the classroom.”

Gergana Vitanova, PhD, and Florin Mihai, PhD, also influenced O’Donnell to consider what he wants to contribute to the future of second language acquisition. In May 2013, O’Donnell and a fellow master’s student presented their review of previous research conducted on anxiety and second language acquisition at the Sunshine State TESOL Conference, and he is interested in pursuing his own research. After graduating, O’Donnell would like to teach at a university in Japan or somewhere in Europe.

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