SIT alumna named top New York TESOL instructor for 2021

December 6th, 2021   |   SIT Graduate Institute, TESOL

A woman with glasses and long hair smiles at the camera.
Linda Sukarat with her ESL award

SIT alumna Linda Sukarat was named College ESL Instructor of the Year 2021 at the annual New York State TESOL conference on November 4. Awards are given both to students and teachers in the state of New York who have contributed to the field of English language learning.

Sukarat has been teaching at Binghamton University since 2009 and is currently director of the English Language Institute (ELI), a support program for matriculated students under the provost’s office.

With a background in English Literature and TESOL, she spent most of her adult life teaching abroad. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, she became a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand. She then attended SIT Graduate Institute, taught in Mexico, and conducted research in Indonesia before returning to Thailand.

... the philosophies of education that the SIT learning community instilled in me are what have made my teaching career stimulating and fulfilling.

From 1989-2009, she was involved in international development as a teacher trainer at Silpakorn University, where she taught elementary and high school EFL teachers incorporating music, culture, poetry and literature in foreign language teaching pedagogy. She also participated in NGO work as well as after-school EFL programs there.

At Binghamton University, she teaches courses that revolve around ESL teacher training, pronunciation for bilinguals, and a writing course that explores cultural identity.

How did your time at SIT inform your approach to language teaching and learning?

SIT's experiential philosophy directly influenced my view of teaching and learning. I firmly believe that students learn best by doing, that qualitative research is important and that the relationships formed between students and the speakers of a language/culture are vital to the process. 

I love that I have never stopped being a student.

I also learned from SIT that we can and should be lifelong learners. I attended SIT when Earl Stevick and Caleb Gattegno came to campus. We students sat around brainstorming ways to use our wooden rods, and I still use them to this day to teach certain grammar points and to get students talking conceptually.

When I was in Thailand, Donald Freeman came as a guest to my Thai university to demonstrate "Learning Centered" teaching and this also stuck with me. I still believe that the philosophies of education that the SIT learning community instilled in me are what have made my teaching career stimulating and fulfilling.

What is your favorite aspect of being a teacher?

For me, teaching is learning. I love that I have never stopped being a student: I love learning more about many different subjects, learning various methods of teaching, and most of all, learning new perspectives from my students.

What is your advice for new students and new teachers?

Always be curious and never think you already know all there is to know about something. If we stop asking the why and how, we become stagnant. Students shouldn’t just sit back, waiting for teachers to "give" them some knowledge, and teachers shouldn’t think they are the only knowers in the classroom. We all have to be continually asking questions, and as soon as we know an answer, we should move on to the next question. That’s how we keep both learning and teaching vibrant.