Graduate Alumni Profiles – Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages M.S.

Christina Zontini

Discovering a Passion for TESOL

Christina Zontini is passionate about education. Ask the recent TESOL graduate about her chosen profession and she will eagerly tell you when and why she chose to teach English as a New Language (ENL).

“As an undergraduate studying childhood and special education, I had an internship at a local elementary school. While there, I met an ENL teacher who completely inspired me. After watching the way she taught and engaged her students, I knew that’s what I wanted to study in grad school.”

Through her new mentor, Christina learned about the TESOL Program at the University at Albany and its director, Dr. Istvan Kecskes. Although she wasn’t completely familiar with ENL, Christina was determined to go through the program.

“I didn’t apply to any other grad schools. I knew I wanted to be in the TESOL Program.”

Soon after beginning the program, Christina was confident that she had made the right choice. Although her undergraduate work was in childhood education, she discovered a new passion for teaching English to adults during the program’s two-semester practicum.

“I absolutely loved teaching adults in the ETAP 598 class; it is a whole different world. Adults are asking, ‘Why? Why is this in English?’ It really makes you think about English as a language. The English grammar class is the hardest I have ever taken in my entire life, but I’m thankful for it. I don’t think I could teach English as a second or new language without having that background knowledge. It’s really important that I can answer ‘why.’”

Strongly rooted in data, the program also gave Christina the opportunity to conduct and present research. She was selected to present at the annual Sorbonne, Paris - SUNY, Albany Graduate Symposium at CELISO (Center for Theoretical and Applied Linguistics) in Paris, a joint program with TESOL since 2012.

But it was Albany’s international population that really opened her eyes to different cultures and perspectives.

“I love working with the other cultures because you learn so much more, and it encourages you to dive deeper into the materials. We’re all learning together.”

TESOL’s flexible evening, summer and hybrid classes allowed Christina to complete the program while continuing to work. This same schedule now affords her the opportunity to earn her Curriculum and Instruction Ph.D. while teaching ENL to middle school students.

“Everyday I am so grateful for what I do. I wake up in the morning excited for work. I absolutely love that I get to teach during the day and then come back to UAlbany and interact with people who have the same passion as I do.

“I know what I’m doing here is making me a better person, a better teacher, for my students.”

Want to learn more about the M.S. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages? Contact Dr. Istvan Kecskes, Distinguished Professor, at or (518) 442-5030. You can also click on "Request Information."