From Tel Aviv to Teaching English
Dafna Ben-Anath’s Global Educational Journey
It would be easy to assume that Dafna Ben-Anath’s pursuit of helping others learn English originated after immigrating to Rego Park, NY from Tel Aviv, Israel when she was eight. While she remembers that adaptation process as being “sink or swim,” Ben-Anath actually acclimated to her American surroundings reasonably well.
“In those days, there weren’t real formal services for newcomers like myself,” she remembers. “I remember somebody teaching me the alphabet, and I remember flash cards with letter patterns and sounds. Fortunately for me, I learned really quickly, and I think it’s because I had no choice.”
As circumstance would have it, she became increasingly drawn to the linguistics and nuances of English itself. This eventually led to her enrollment in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) courses at Touro as a supplement to her background as a college professor. “It was a combination of interest in the field itself and experiences I had undergone,” she says of her attraction to ESL education, in addition to “the richness of the vocabulary, expressing oneself in so many different ways.”
Ben-Anath concedes she initially viewed Touro as a somewhat functional means to acquire the necessary certification for instructing at the high school level. But by the conclusion of her studies this past winter, she’d picked up terms and methods that further sharpened her existing know-how.“They theoretically and formally crystallized what I had been doing without really knowing what I had been doing,” she explains. “I would do something in a class or read it in a textbook and say, ‘Oh, OK, I’ve been doing this for a while and now I know what it’s called.’ It was an affirming process and gave me insight into other new methods that I’m utilizing right now.”
While teaching at Long Island City High School this year, Ben-Anath began implementing tools such as the Cognitive Academic Learning Approach, or Calla. “I did find they improved their reading-comprehension ability,” she says of her students at LIC High. “It helped them understand what they read and extract ideas and evidence from the text in order to then put it in essay of their own.”
As for Ben-Anath herself, all she’s hoping for in return is “the feeling that I’m making English instruction more concrete and focused, as opposed to just learning how to speak and read.” Which, fittingly, is exactly how she approached her own academic transition as an eight-year-old from Tel Aviv.