John Anderson, MA TESOL '20: Finding My Path

Jun 27 2022


John Anderson, MA TESOL '20, was a student in the inaugural cohort of the MA TESOL program, jointly established by NYU Shanghai and NYU Steinhardt. Graduating from the prorgam two years ago, Anderson has achieved remarkable progress in his career. 

nyu shanghai

Anderson at the 2021 Graduate Convocation with Professor Kentei Takaya and his classmates

Anderson, originally from California, United States, has been working and living in Shanghai since 2007, when he took on a full-time job as an English teacher in a local international school.


When did you decide to apply for a graduate program? Why did you choose the then newly founded TESOL program?


Pursuing a master’s degree had been on my to-do list for a while. Around that time, I had been at my job for over ten years. I found myself having more and more questions, especially after I became the director of our English teaching department. I increasingly felt the need to study more theoretical frameworks and develop better teaching practices, so that our curriculum design and assessment system could be further improved. 


By chance, I discovered this program when I was searching for graduate programs online. Immediately intrigued, I signed up for an in-person seminar and toured around the campus, a very beautiful one with many brand-new classrooms that made a very optimal learning environment. Even more coincidentally, I met one of my future classmates at this event.



Anderson and his classmates in New York


Could you share some impressive experiences during your study in the program? 


I think the program is really well-designed, as it allowed me to enjoy a diverse and advanced learning experience while working full time. The perfect balance between work and study facilitated by the program enabled me to pace myself,  not feeling overwhelmed.


What I enjoyed a lot were the meetups with my classmates. We often hung out after class and shared what was going on in our study, work and personal life. Over the course of the program, we became a tight-knit group, which I really  cherished. Till this day, we still keep in close touch. I am extremely grateful for the friendships I have with them and I'm so honored to I get to know such a group of extraordinary people who share the same passion and enthusiasm. 


In the second year of the program, my classmates and I spent a wonderful summer and took two courses during the immersive learning modules in New York. We fell in love with the NYU campus and the city as a whole, where so many diverse cultures were prospering. The program organized many institution visits as well as meet-and-greets with professionals in the industry. In our spare time, some of our professors even invited us to their home dinner! That summer was such a unforgettable time.



Anderson on a field trip in New York with Professor Heather Woodley 

What was your favorite class in the program?


My favorite class was Workshop in Teaching World Languages, taught by Professor Frank Tang. Passionate, humorous, and very experienced in teaching, Professor Tang would often masterfully knit interesting stories into his classes. I could listen to him all day! Many practitioners were brought in by the professor as guest lecturers to offer us practical insights and updates in the industry. The field trips he organized were also great opportunities for us to observe various educational institutions in New York firsthand.



Anderson with Professor Frank Tang

How did the TESOL program influence your career development?


During this program, my identity shifted from a teacher to a student, which gave me the opportunity to be in the students’ shoes and improved my ability to empathize with my students. With this renewed empathy, I began to refine my teaching practice and focus more on how to keep students engaged and motivated. Our classmates came from diverse backgrounds. In the course of our discussion, I got to gain insights on different subfields and research areas within the realm of educational. The courses offered practical theories and concrete techniques that were so relevant that I could even apply them straight to my teaching routine. Except for the comprehensive final project, other courses were tailored to my interest and customized to be focusing on different areas, which allowed me to explore freely and extensively.



Anderson with his classmates during their study in New York


The program also opened doors for me to the abundant resources provided by NYU Shanghai. When I was changing my job, the Career Development Center helped polish my CV and organized mock interviews for me.

In these ways, the TESOL program helped me eventually figure out what my path should be, facilitating a smooth transition in my career, where I went back to teaching English in another prestigious institution after briefly being a science instructor.