This is a two-part series of my blog. I did some informational interviews with administrators and teachers at English Language Schools in my hometown of Chicago, IL. The recent changes of Immigration Policies by the Trump Administration have drastically impacted schools like the Hana Center. BIR, which I will talk about is different.
The second installment of this series goes to Mrs. Inna Obodyanik, the head of BIR’s education department. Mrs. Obodyanik makes sure that international students who are looking for an education in the states have a safe place to learn and the best professors and teachers to learn from. I would know, BIR is the first ESL teaching job I had in the states as a full-blown ESL teacher. It was the beginning of my domestic global experience.
Mrs. Obodyanik spends a typical day responding to emails, formatting Academic Success Plans for students, talking with the IT department and actually teaching classes. She has her Masters in Linguistics and started out in the industry by being a teacher.
BIR TRAINING INSTITUTE
The BIR Training Institute is completely privately funded as opposed to Hana Center’s government funding. They do not have to face the same issues when it comes to keeping the doors open. Instead the Mrs. Obodyanik has to deal with a different beast known as “accreditation.”
Since BIR is an accredited school for international students they have to be accredited by some accrediting body that is approved by the Department of Education. Unfortunately, the accrediting body that BIR was accredited from has lost its status with the US Department of Education. This means that all of the schools this particular accrediting body had accredited have now lost their accreditation. Said schools can no longer get new students and without new students BIR, the privately funded school, will slowly run out of resources.
This has led BIR to take on what they call a “skinny diet” with dwindling funds they have to cut back on staff and use video conferencing apps like ZOOM to hold classrooms at their four locations at the same time. While solutions like this can only stave off the problem, Mrs. Obodyanik is confident that if all plans go smooth, BIR will be back at full steam August 2018.
Since, BIR is primarily paid for buy its students, Mrs. Obodyanik does not fear that BIR needs exposure like the Hana Center does. However, she is afraid that a lot of BIR’s potenti
al students could be afraid to see the United States as a safe place to come learn thanks to the current administration.
Mrs. Obodyanik works tirelessly to fix the problems she can. She has hired a new Accreditation Adviser to get BIR back in good graces with the federal government and she is ever diligent working with the remaining international students to make sure they complete their respective programs on time.
ADVICE TO PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS
In terms of advice for those who want to venture into the field of ESL, Mrs. Obodyank says you have to be flexible and you should get experience abroad first so you can understand the different culture you will most likely be teaching. She also recommends that you get your Master’s in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) since that is one of the main requirements to being a BIR professor.
I am going to teach abroad again for now. I applaud everyone in Chicago doing their part to educate the immigrants and expats now in this country. When I return, I hope American accreditation policies have normalized. I’m optimistic.