Susan Boland: Bio

Susan graduated from The New School in New York City in 1976, with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.  She received her Master ‘s Degree in Linguistics from George Mason University in 1990 and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Old Dominion University in 2001. Upon her retirement from a thirty-year career teaching English as a Second Language, Susan was conferred the status of Professor Emeritus by Tidewater Community College in March 2021. Her numerous achievements leading to this prestigious designation follow this short biographical sketch. Susan continues to teach ESL 51, her favorite ESL course, each fall term at Tidewater Community College.  

Susan has published essays and longer non-fiction pieces in various magazines and served as a columnist for The Virginian-Pilot addressing issues for military families, as her husband served in the U.S. Navy for thirty years.  Susan also served as a guest columnist on the Op Ed page of The Virginian-Pilot. As well as currently teaching ESL 51 each fall term at Tidewater Community College, Susan also teaches memoir writing at senior retirement communities. She volunteers to teach pronunciation skills to employees of senior retirement centers as well as working as a volunteer at the English Conversation Club at the Virginia Beach Central Library on Wednesday afternoons at 2:30. 

Susan has published two books. Put Some Mayo on That in 2014 and She Best English Teacher Me Ever Have in 2021. Her next book, Come Dance with Me in Ireland, is scheduled to be released in Fall of 2022. Susan lives in Virginia Beach with her husband, Bookie Boland. 

In appreciation of the dedication and commitment of Susan Boland to her students,  the designation of Professor Emeritus was placed upon Susan in March, 2021. Her comprehensive achievements in the academic environs are listed in the following order: English as a Second Language (ESL)Curriculum, Program Enhancement, Collaborations, Professional Development, Institutional Service, and Community Engagement. 

ESL Curriculum

  • Initial year as full-time faculty (2004) I taught seven out of the eight courses in the ESL program to acquaint myself with the complete curriculum
  • Second year as full-time faculty, I taught only composition courses, (ESL 31, 41, 51). In the fall term, I created changes to the curriculum, and in the spring term I implemented those changes. For example, standardized final exams were created for each composition course, as well as unvarying textbooks.
  • Third year as full-time faculty, I repeated this same process for reading courses (ESL 32, 42, 52).
  • Fourth year as full-time faculty, I repeated this same process for oral skills courses (ESL 33, 43)
  • In my fifth year as full-time faculty, the ESL Textbook Review Policy was created. Under this policy all composition texts were reviewed during my fifth year, followed by reading texts in my sixth year, and oral skills texts in my seventh year.  The ESL Textbook Review Policy, administered by the ESL Committee, has continued this mandatory three-year review by skill area. 
  • During my second-year teaching composition courses, I recognized the magnitude of ESL 51, as passing ESL 51 allowed an ESL student to register for ENG 111. For this reason, I taught a section of ESL 51 every semester and I required any adjunct teaching ESL 51 for the first time to observe my section of ESL 51.
  • In 2010, after five years addressing the ESL curriculum, textbook selection, and training of adjuncts, Curt Aasen completed a study of ESL Course Success Rates. 86% of ESL students passed ENG 111 upon their first attempt, while 69% of native speakers placed directly into ENG 111 passed, and 66% of native speakers who completed developmental writing courses passed ENG 111.  
  • To address the standardization of curriculum as well as foster a culture of instructors sharing their materials to meet the demands of the curriculum, I created a Blackboard site  for ESL faculty that held all relevant documents pertaining to the ESL curriculum as well as space for instructors to share their handouts and other materials  which further enabled faculty to meet their responsibilities in implementing the curriculum in their classrooms.

ESL Program Enhancements

  • During my first year as full-time faculty, I revised the ESL class schedule to address the needs of the ESL student body.  The MWF schedule was changed to include 8:00 am classes, which students, many of whom who worked retail, could attend before their work start time.  The TR schedule ran three periods, but was adjusted to include one class in each skill area, so that full-time students need only be on campus TR. 
  • During my second year as full-time faculty, I implemented ESL classes offered, for the first time, during the summer ten-week semester. 
  • ESL 20, a twelve-credit integrated skills course, was only offered daytime, with the class running Monday – Thursday 9 -12.  This schedule was changed to run at the same time as MWF ESL classes, 9:30, 11:00, and 12:30, resulting in an increase in enrollment that justified an evening section of ESL 20 to meet this demand.
  • During the first year of full-time teaching, the ESL Placement Test was offered twice a month, during the day, and in one classroom, limiting the number of test-takers to 30. During my second year of full-time teaching, I began the project to move the paper and pencil test to a computerized placement test to be administered by the testing center. This project took two years to complete, but the increased accessibility significantly enhanced ESL enrollment.
  • Following the implementation of computerized placement testing, it was necessary to revise the diagnostic tests that all ESL students take on the first day of class to ensure that they have been correctly placed by the computerized test. The composition diagnostic test was in good order, but I dedicated the first year of this process to revising the reading diagnostic test, and the second to the revision of the oral skills diagnostic test. 

ESL Program Collaborations

  • Working with the Provost, Dr. Summers, the ESL Tutoring Center was established, recognizing that the Writing Center personnel did not have the expertise required when working with non-native speakers.  With the support of Dr. Summers, space was dedicated for the ESL Tutoring Center, but there was a three-month delay to hire tutors. During that time period, I staffed the ESL Tutoring Center myself every afternoon Monday through Thursday to meet the demand from the ESL student body.
  • Working with Linda Miller, my former colleague who teaches Spanish, the ESL Conversation Partner program was implemented. Through this program, native speakers learning Spanish were paired with Spanish speaking ESL students for conversation. Students would spend half the activity period speaking Spanish, and the other half speaking English.
  • Working with the TCC librarians, ESL graded readers were purchased by the TCC library and placed in a designated area for display and reading. As a result of this successful initiative, reading a novel was incorporated into the curriculum for ESL 32, 42, and 52.
  • Working with Workforce Development, the ESL program taught ESL classes on site for The Virginia Pilot as well as working with multinational companies in Hampton Roads having employees who spoke English as a second language. 
  • Working with Old Dominion University, I initiated and implemented an agreement under which ODU graduate students studying linguistics with the intent to be ESL instructors could complete their practicum at TCC. This required a significant amount of my time to oversee the graduate students teaching in our program. However, the benefits were immeasurable, as the ESL program had a steady stream of gifted, enthusiastic, and qualified instructors who wanted to teach at TCC upon their graduation.

          ESL enrollment thrived as a result of improvements to the student experience through curriculum revision, program enhancements, and program collaborations. In Fall 2004 the ESL program ran 17 sections of ESL classes. In Fall 2008, the ESL program ran 42 sections of classes. 

Professional Development and Institutional Service

  • Virginia Teachers of English as a Second Language (VATESOL) served as newsletter editor, vice-president, president, and past president
  • Graduate of Master Teachers Class
  • ESL Search Committee Chair (twice)
  • ESL Committee Chair
  • Writing Center Committee
  • TESOL attended
  • Attended Oideas Gael, a language school in County Donegal, Ireland, to experience complete submersion in another language (Irish) to help me further understand the challenges of learning a language
  • Presented numerous times on ESL topics to conferences held for the benefit of VCCS instructors as well as conferences for the faculty of TCC.
  • Hosted a VATESOL conference at TCC
  • Engaged in five years of weekly piano instruction, enabling me to be constantly reminded of the demands of learning that I place on my students.
  • Created my writer’s web site, Shestories, where I publish my work. For professional reasons, I would not bring an essay I wrote into my classroom as an example; however, my students often expressed an interest in my writing as they had read some of my work in The Virginia Pilot, where I was an op-ed page guest editor. Shestories.com gave students access to my work without compromising my professional standards. 

Community Engagement

  • Volunteer for Virginia Beach Public Library as a participant in the English Conversation Club, a weekly event for non-native speakers.
  • Volunteer for Westminster Canterbury where I teach, annually, a six-week course on memoir writing for senior citizens.
  • Volunteer for the Baylake Pines Civic League as the organizer of the neighborhood book club.
  • Volunteer as a Lector and Sunday School teacher with the Fort Story Catholic Church community.
  1. Volunteer Sandler Center for the Arts
  • Guest Columnist, Op Ed, The Virginian-Pilot

Student Engagement

Finally, I wish to address an area that I have always felt was critical in the ESL community, that being my interactions with my students outside of my classroom. I have accompanied students to traffic court as well as held their hand as we walked, together, to the Woman’s Center, so that my student could get the counselling she needed to deal with an abusive husband.  I have visited students in the hospital, suffering from diabetes to tuberculosis, and whose families were far away. I have been invited to weddings, baby showers, and even one glorious afternoon, just before Mother’s Day, a luncheon for me, their “American Mom” – a title as precious to me as Professor Emeritus.

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