English education major will start teaching career overseas


After graduating with her secondary English education degree next month, Jamillah Sleiman will prepare to add a third language to her repertoire. In addition to English and Arabic, Sleiman is learning Chinese as she gets ready to spend a year teaching English at Henan Polytechnic University in China.

Sleiman said her experience student-teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, — or ESOL — students at Wichita North High School prepared her for working with non-English-speakers.

“A lot of the students I work with already struggle with the English language,” Sleiman said. “It’s all about learning how to adapt the curriculum, and kind of differentiating the curriculum in order to help them learn English as a second language.”

In China, Sleiman will teach English as a foreign language.

“I got really lucky to be placed at North because it’s an amazing school. The ESOL student population at that school is so big that it’s definitely helped me get into the mindset that I know what I want to do and I know the people I want to work with.”

Teaching English to non-English-speakers comes with a unique set of challenges. Sleiman will focus on teaching students to carry out a conversation in English.

“The classes I’ll be teaching, they’ll be more speaking and listening-based, whereas the English classes we have here are more surrounded by literature and grammar and all of that,” Sleiman said.

Sleiman’s family’s cultural heritage has informed her research in linguistics. Her research on the Arabic language got her interested in “interact[ing] with people on the basis of language as a whole.”

Sleiman’s research in linguistics began with her fascination by the generational differences in language between the Arabic her father spoke compared to her grandmother.

It started with project in a linguistics class where students had to look into their last names.

“My research was over the changing of Arabic terminology during war and displacement in Palestine,” Sleiman said. “I told [my professor] all about my last name and how it came about and stuff and she was like, do you want to extend your research into the Arabic language that your family speaks? And I said, yeah, of course.”

“We went into this whole research for six months about me interpreting the way my grandmother speaks Arabic versus the way my father speaks Arabic, and the differences in the way they say words,” Sleiman said.

She eventually presented her research at a linguistics conference at Boise State University last semester.

She said presenting about her cultural background was her favorite part of her college experience.

“I think my cultural heritage is something I’m so proud of and I don’t get to embrace it enough,” Sleiman said.

“So being able to show the world and show WSU like, this is where I come from and these are the changes that are happening because of the bad things that are happening in Palestine.”

She said her research focused on the “urbanization of the way the Arabic language is transforming in America,” Sleiman said.

“My grandmother was born in Palestine, married in Palestine. They had to move to Lebanon after the war started. My father was born in Lebanon, and then they moved to Kuwait,” before moving to Wichita at age 17, Sleiman said.

“I knew I wanted to do it, so I figured, why not now?” Sleiman said.

“I didn’t want to wait until I was already in my career here in Wichita.

“I didn’t want to be deep in, like, three years into teaching here at USD 259 and decide, ‘Oh I’m going to go overseas.’

“I figured it would be good to take a year, do what I want to do, and then come back and teach in high school or middle school,” Sleiman said.