TESOL alumna Reem Al-Samiri on teaching Academic English to university freshmen
Reem Al-Samiri earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from KU in 2020, specializing in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL.) Now an assistant professor of TESOL at the University of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, she’s is dedicating her career to helping students learn and grow through language education.
We caught up with Al-Samiri, who told us about the most rewarding aspects of her job, her time at KU and the mentors who shaped her experience on The Hill.
Tell us about what you do for a living.
I teach Academic English to university freshman students in Saudi Arabia. I also work on developing curriculum and assessment materials for students in the English program. I decided on this career path because I’ve always enjoyed teaching and working with language learners. I started teaching my peers in school before it was ever a job. Now, I’m lucky to be able to work closely with young brilliant students who will be shaping the future of the country.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Mostly, I enjoy seeing the students’ faces light up when they start to understand something in English or use the English language in a conversation. It is one of the most rewarding experiences to see students progress from beginner proficiency to being able to use the language more confidently.
How did your experiences in the School of Education & Human Sciences prepare you for your career?
Working with highly-knowledgeable and qualified professors and studying alongside an international cohort broadened my perspectives and deepened my understanding, not only in my major but in my understanding of the world. I feel that I came out with more than just a degree; it’s the professionalism combined with kindness is that I gained the most.
What’s a mistake you made in college or in your career that you’d caution others to avoid?
I regret not getting involved with student organizations and student activities earlier in my studies. These extra-curricular activities are what make your university experience much richer, expand your social network, and also look good on your CV.
What are your top career tips for current students?
Don’t just do the minimum requirements to “get by” in school. Use your time at school wisely, as you’re surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the world. Collaborate with others who share your interests, and ask for mentoring and advice from those you look up to.
“Use your time at school wisely, as you’re surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the world.”
Which opportunities at KU would you urge students to take advantage of?
Doing research with/or under the guidance of professors is a great opportunity for those who are interested in academic or research-oriented careers. It is much more difficult to do research after you begin a full-time job.
Please share the names of any KU mentors who made an impact on your life.
I had been lucky enough to work closely with many amazing professors in the School of Education & Human Sciences. Dr. Cho was one of my first professors at KU. She really supported international scholars and validated our experiences, which was really helpful because entering a new academic scene in a different country can be very intimidating. She encouraged students’ conversations, presentations, and research on topics that we can relate to. My experience in her class during my first semester is what made me believe in my abilities and motivated me to continue to study and write my dissertation, followed by a book on the same topic.
Dr. Lizette Peter helped me develop my research abilities. She patiently guided me and shared research and advice with me.
Dr. Steven White also had a great impact on me and helped me develop professionally. Even though he was very busy, he knew that I was interested in becoming an active member of our department, so he always found opportunities for me to become involved. Those experiences, in particular, are what developed me professionally. When I started my job, I was prepared for the roles I was to take on.
What does being a Jayhawk and a KU alum mean to you?
It’s a part of my life with its experiences and people that I carry with me wherever I go. I still feel connected to Lawrence, KU, and the people there. I follow Lawrence news and KU basketball games. They say, “Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk,” and it’s true. You’re always part of the KU community, no matter how far you are.
“They say, ‘Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk,’ and it’s true.”
Favorite memory of KU or Lawrence:
Studying late nights at the Watson has to be one of my top memories of KU. I remember how I spent hours working on my research and how it all paid off now. The fifth floor- the quiet zone- is where I spent many of the cold winter days and nights reading, writing, taking notes, and getting inspired.
Another favorite memory of KU is walking through the campanile during my Ph.D. graduation. I spent 8 years at KU (M.A. and Ph.D.), and not once did I walk under it because I was saving it for “the big one.” Unfortunately, I graduated in Spring 2020 and there was no celebration due to the COVID lockdown. I returned to Saudi Arabia and got my current position. When I heard KU was holding a ceremony for 2020 graduates in the summer of 2021, I immediately signed up. I returned one year later and walked down the hill with one of my good colleagues, Debby Adams. The feeling was completely worth the wait.