Today’s Faculty Profile focuses on Georgetown English Language Center professor Nancy Overman. She traveled the world before becoming a teacher of English and brings a cross-cultural communicator’s perspective to each of her classes.
I grew up in Painted Post, NY, a small village in western New York State. To illustrate how small the village was, we had just one police car and a volunteer fire department. If there was a fire, the station would blow a loud whistle in a different pattern for each area of the village – so that the firefighters could drive directly to the neighborhood where the fire was.
I went to college early, at 16. While I was in college, I was an exchange student in France and then in Japan. In both places, I had the opportunity to teach English, and while it was enjoyable, it also made me realize that being a native speaker isn’t enough to be able to teach English. Eventually, I got my master’s degree in TESOL and have been teaching ever since.
My first job was as a teenager when my village flooded during Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The school district paid me $1.72/hour to clean the elementary school. I shoveled mud, hosed off furniture, and scraped chewing gum from the bottom of chairs. They also gave me a pile of combination locks with soggy, partially readable (flooded) paper tags. I spent several days trying to figure out the combinations and making new tags when I was successful. I’ve also been a flight attendant, which allowed me to travel to many countries in Europe and Asia. I have not traveled to South America or Africa yet, but they are on my bucket list.
One of my favorite books is The Stand, by Stephen King, not because it’s scary, but because it’s about rebuilding society after a pandemic. The survivors have to decide what kind of community they want to live in and which values are important to them.
Best advice you’ve received:
“Don’t worry about what other people think.” Not caring what others think about what I’m doing, how I’m dressing, etc. is one of the nice things about getting older!
What do you do for fun outside of class?:
I love skiing. Perhaps I’ll retire one day and become a ski bum or a ski instructor. I also like reading (especially audiobooks) and watching movies
How do you keep learning fun in the classroom?
I am often surprised when vocabulary or grammar that I’ve taught reappears in my life within 24 hours – on the radio, in the newspaper, online, etc. So I try to collect these real-life examples and share them the next day. I also like to create games and online activities that keep students motivated.
What is your favorite course(s) to teach and why?
Grammar – it’s easy to incorporate games into classes and there are definitive answers to questions. I also enjoy teaching reading because the students and I can read articles about new topics in science, psychology, history, etc. For example, this week, my students and I learned about how and why people lie, and why this is an important developmental milestone for children and not just bad behavior.
Do you have any research interests in the field of English Language Teaching?
I’m interested in cultural differences, especially those that might affect language learning. In fact, at one time, I thought I would be an intercultural trainer. But then I realized that that kind of work would require me to work freelance, as a consultant, and I decided that I wanted a more secure paycheck. Working at Georgetown for 35 years has given me that sense of security – and also good friends and wonderful experiences.
Author Regan Carver is a Program Manager in the English Language Center.