Janet Lane

2007 Award for Excellence in Teaching

Janet Lane recalls being “propelled” from her goal of teaching Spanish into teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), by participating as an undergraduate in the PAL (Partners in Acquiring Language) Conversation Program, which pairs U.S. and international students for conversation practice. Observing her partner’s struggles to achieve the mastery of English required for academic work initiated Lane’s career, studying and teaching English to students from varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds and at diverse academic levels.

After completing her B.A. in Linguistics and Spanish, M.A. in Linguistics, and Certificate in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at UC Davis, Lane taught academic English skills at the University of Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, for two years. Simultaneously, she learned Swahili by immersion and experienced culture shock and adaptation to living in a new culture—bases for understanding the experiences of international students studying in the U.S.

Since 1984 Lane has taught a range of courses at UC Davis, including Subject A, first year ESL writing, oral and written English for Education Abroad and international graduate students, and ESL pedagogy courses for Linguistics graduate students. In collaboration with Chemistry faculty, she also co-designed and team-taught a course for international Chemistry TAs.

Teaching listening, reading, writing, and speaking in English, Lane encourages students to assess their own strengths and weaknesses and to set focused individual goals. She constantly develops new materials to help her students master pragmatic English, for everyday life as well as for highly technical academic work. Lane also aims to build students’ confidence and empower them to continue improving their language skills independently.

From her teaching, Lane has developed texts now adopted across the nation. With Ellen Lange she co-authored Writing Clearly: An Editing Guide, designed to help advanced ESL and multilingual writers to improve grammatical accuracy. With Ellen Lange and Linda Bates, she co-authored a text for ESL instructors, Writing Clearly: Responding to ESL Compositions. She has also created TA-training videos that demonstrate teaching techniques for varied situations, including lab, lecture, discussion, and office hours.

For over ten years, Lane has served as Graduate ESL Program Coordinator in Linguistics, planning, revising and implementing course curricula, developing and administering an entrance exam, supervising test grading and placement, and supervising TAs and lecturers teaching ESL courses. She also consults with faculty and staff advisors across campus, as well as designs and presents faculty and TA training workshops.

The graduate students who nominated and supported Lane for the award portray a devoted innovative and student-oriented instructor, whose teaching is “not just an art but also a science.” They appreciate her knowledge of and sensitivity to diverse students, noting that she has taught students from 50 countries and studied the specific difficulties that derive from different first languages. They appreciate her class practices and materials tailored to students’ needs, her precise, detailed and encouraging comments on oral and written work, and further individualized instruction and counseling in office hours.

Lane’s students praise her as a caring, patient, sympathetic instructor, “an angel,” who makes them feel “at home,” helps them to integrate into campus culture, encourages her students to help each other, and helps them to overcome their shyness and sense of isolation. “She loves her students, her teaching, and her life,” one writes, “which makes her extremely beautiful and special in class.”

Congratulations, Janet!

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