Top humanities student a dedicated ESL teacher


- Patty Pitts

Some students take several years to determine what they want to do with their degree. Then there’s this year’s Humanities Jubilee Medal winner Theresa Leask. The applied linguistics graduate knew that she wanted to be an English as a second language teacher while she was still at Mt. Doug High School.

“I was a very unusual 15-year-old in that I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” says the well-traveled Leask who will leave for Taiwan at the end of July to hunt for her first post-graduate teaching position. “I’m really excited about that. Research and graduate school is not a part of my immediate plan.”

She credits the web-based program Education Planner, which provides information about post-secondary options in BC, with leading her to UVic. “It offered the applied linguistics program that I wanted that led to both a degree and the recognized credentials to be an ESL teacher.”

Leask landed teaching positions at a private school in Mexico and in rural schools near Avignon, France through the humanities co-op program.
“My French was quite good when I went to France, but now I’d consider myself fluent,” says Leask who taught English alongside nationals from Italy, China, the United States and Britain. “It was so much fun. Five years ago the French government declared that all school children must start to learn a foreign language by the time they are six. So there were these little French kids learning Chinese, Italian and English.

While her other work term did not involve teaching, it did provide Leask with opportunities to pursue her lifelong interest in hiking and exploring the outdoors. “My job was to manage the Northwest Mounted Police Barracks Museum in Canmore, AB, for a summer,” remembers Leask. “I really enjoyed being solely in charge of the facility and on the weekends I could hike in the Rockies.”

Leask hit the trails back home too, spending three years at UVic as a Trex leader, which is part of the Girl Guide movement (“we collect all the girls who are only in guiding for the camping”). And when she wasn’t maintaining her 8.7 GPA Leask played tuba in UVic’s Don Wright Symphonic Winds band (“I’ve been part of Tuba Christmas since I was 13.”) and sang in the Prima Choir, which practices in the Farquhar Auditorium. “If something is important to me, I make time to do it,” says Leask of her time management strategy.

Seeing people accomplish new skills is important to Leask too. “In Guides I get satisfaction from seeing girls do something they never did before. It’s the same thing with ESL students. If they enjoy learning English and have fun doing it, that’s satisfying for me.”


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Keywords: languages and linguistics

People: Theresa Leask

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