An Interview with Craig
from the ESL Program at
Norwalk Community College
Craig Machado is the director of the ESL Division at Norwalk Community College
in Connecticut, USA. An English teacher himself, Craig now helps
hundreds of English students and aspiring teachers achieve their goals.
Craig's international experience as a Peace Corps member and English
teacher led him to continue his career in the field of English as a
He is now directing the ESL Division at Norwalk Community College,
where he works with international students from all over the world with
very different goals for their English skills in terms of their career
and personal goals.
Craig took the time to answer a few questions about his experience at
the ESL Division at NCC. Let's see what he has to share with us.
1. First of all, how did you become interested in the field of
English as a Second Language?
I went into the Peace Corps in West Africa and became a TEFL teacher at
the secondary level.
The program covers a wide range of students from beginners to those
planning to get a college degree; we have both non-credit and credit
courses. The latter focus on academic writing and reading.
We are diverse in terms of countries represented-over 80 and at least
50 different languages spoken. We do not, as a rule, work with literacy
students. They are referred to adult education. Our students are
immigrants, au pairs, tourists, and internationals.
3. As the different
credit and non-credit courses were structured, what was the guiding
principle behind the program?
The curriculum is designed to build students' language proficiency and
is focused on helping them to pursue academic and career programs;
students are able to take most credit classes as non-credit for reduced
tuition (great for international students who don't need credits but
need the courses as some of them transfer to other schools).
4. What special
opportunities does your program make available to its students?
We have a digital lab for group and self-study, a website for
self-access study, tutoring, full time advising, a certificate of
English proficiency (19 credits of ESL, English and Public Speaking
5. Your ESL program
includes several courses on academic writing and writing workshops. Why
is this particularly important for your students?
Because many of them are moving to career and academic degree programs
and they need to be able to write and speak reasonably well.
6. You also have a TESOL
(Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) course available. Why
have you decided to include this course, and what kind of students do
you hope will participate?
We have not offered this course in a while, though it is still in the
college catalog. We do, however, provide teaching practicum for grad
students in TESOL who need to observe classes, meet with our
instructors and in some cases, teach lessons for MA degree requirements.
7. Pronunciation and
speaking skills are big challenges for English learners. How does your
program help students with these fundamental skills?
We offer a low intermediate and intermediate pronunciation workshop for
students in the lab; we have traditional (non-credit only)
listening/speaking classes (some are using an online learning platform
English Discoveries Online –EDO). We also have oral skills classes with
a focus on academic listening and speaking (credit and non-credit).
8. You even offer free English tutoring to your
students! Can you tell us a bit more about this special opportunity and
how it has benefited the students and tutors? Are the tutors students
We have a part time ESL–designated tutor in the college's tutor center
(16 hours a week of = hour appointments) and we have a small non-credit
tutoring program for recent high school graduates who are still
struggling with English.
This is also a kind of mentoring program where an instructor meets with
a student for at least an hour a week per semester to go over class
work and talk about academic plans.
9. What sorts of
certifications or international tests are available to graduates of
As mentioned before, we have a 19-credit Certificate of English
Language Proficiency which is offered through all of the CT State
community colleges with ESL programs. Students may also apply a limited
number of ESL credits to degree programs that have humanities/liberal
10. Finally, could you
share a bit more with us about the special resources offered through
the ESL program at NCC, such as faculty members, language labs, or visa
In addition, we have a full-time international student advisor, and she
is supported by a part-time student worker and a faculty member.
Craig, thanks so much for
sharing with us. Your programs offer a lot of great benefits to
students and aspiring teachers!