|After the Dissertation
Art Appreciation Leads to
Holly Hansen-Thomas earned her Ph.D. in culture, literacy and language in 2004. A member of her program’s first cohort, she was the first graduate to secure an
academic job. She is now in her second year of teaching at Binghamton University,
a graduate-level campus of 14,000 students that is part of the State University of New York. She currently teaches a literacy class and a class on English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction for mainstream teachers. She is also seeking a grant to provide Spanish teachers with professional development.
“There’s a lot that I like about my job,” she says. “It’s an
exciting time and a lot of things are happening. This summer the education department split off, so now we’re our own school of
15 full-time faculty. Because we’re so small, we all have a voice.”
Hansen-Thomas is the chapter counselor of Kappa Delta Pi, an education honors society. The group underwrote her
dissertation on how middle school ESL students who are native
Spanish speakers learn math discourse. She studied three
classes in Texas where math was taught in a group-oriented
manner with hands-on activities. Her results
generally supported previous findings that these teaching methods have been shown to help second-language learners. She is continuing her research by comparing her data with results from New York classrooms.
Hansen-Thomas’ interest in ESL began after she completed her bachelor’s in art
history and moved from Austin to Barcelona, Spain, simply hoping to see the art she had studied. After a brief stint as an au pair,
she began teaching English and eventually
became certified in ESL, English and Spanish at the secondary level.
After returning to the United States, she earned her master’s degree in bilingual
and bicultural studies in 1999 at UTSA. Her passion for
language and culture soon led her and her husband to Dresden, Germany, and then to Hungary, where she taught under the
Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program.
After that experience, where she was recognized as a
visiting professor, Hansen-Thomas decided to return to UTSA
to pursue her doctorate. “I felt really supported at UTSA. I had developed good relationships with the faculty, and I felt like I would still be able to learn more from them as a doctoral student.
And I was right.”
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