State Dept. names 2 SIT alumni as Virtual Educators

Announcement Date: September 26, 2022   |   Fellowships, SIT Graduate Institute

SIT alumni Laura Leslie and Charles McKinney are among the first English language teachers selected to participate in the U.S. State Department's new Virtual English Language Educator Program, which launched this academic year.

Laura Leslie will teach English to Turkey's growing gaming community.

Leslie, of Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Bilbao, will work with a virtual project engaging with English language learners online in Turkey through the Istanbul Consulate. McKinney, who is currently based in Baghdad, Iraq, was selected for a virtual project engaging with English language learners and teachers online in Ethiopia at American Spaces.

Leslie received her bachelor's degree in business administration before completing a 120+ hour TESOL certificate. In 2016, she completed her MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management at SIT. Her work has focused on higher education, business English, and refugee resettlement. She is passionate about helping people improve their livelihoods.

Since 2010, she has taught English to students in California, China, Saudi Arabia, Vermont, El Salvador, Cuba, and Spain. She anticipates starting as a Virtual Educator this month. In her new role, she will create and deliver an English course for Turkey’s growing gaming community. One of the goals of the course is to improve participants’ opportunities to enter the Turkish IT job market.

Charles McKinney will teach writing and speaking to learners in Ethiopia.

McKinney, who is from Delaware, graduated in 2022 from SIT with a master’s degree in TESOL. He also holds an MA in media communications from Webster University Thailand and a BA from Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. He has been an English educator in eight countries. For his virtual project, McKinney will facilitate the writing and speaking development of his Ethiopian counterparts for 10 weeks.

The Virtual English Language Educator Program is the premier online opportunity for experienced teachers of English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) to enact meaningful and sustainable changes in the way that English is taught abroad. Through projects developed by U.S. embassies in more than 80 countries, Virtual Educators work with local teachers, students, and educational professionals to improve the quality of English language instruction offered at prestigious universities, academic institutions, and cultural centers.

English Language Programs has placed thousands of TESOL scholars and educators with international partner institutions, abroad and virtually, to promote English language learning, enhance English teaching capacity, and foster mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural exchange. These projects are challenging and the teachers selected represent the best of the U.S. TESOL community. Virtual Educators are among the more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. 

For further information:

Virtual English Language Educator Program, [email protected], 202-687-0997

Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State,,  202-632-6452

English Language Programs is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University.