Mason professor to be honored by State Department as top English language specialist

Joan Shin
Joan Shin. Photo provided.

The U.S. State Department is honoring George Mason University associate professor Joan Kang Shin for her work in its English language specialist program. Shin is one of 30 individuals selected for their unique and lasting impact on the State Department’s specialist program and on the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages.

The honor is part of the State Department’s celebration of the 30-year anniversary of the English language specialist program.

“Participation in this program provides opportunities for valuable cultural and professional exchanges that continue to inform my teaching and research at Mason,” Shin said.

The State Department is specifically highlighting Shin’s work using songs to teach language and culture to young English learners. Since 2005, Shin has conducted more than 20 specialist projects in countries all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea and Turkey.

“Dr. Shin has had a profound impact wherever she goes,” said Tony Newman, global program officer for the State Department’s English language specialist program. “We see her as someone who can carry the program forward for the next 30 years.”

The English language specialist program has sent English language specialists to 130 countries to work on educational projects, such as teacher training, curriculum design and addresses at international conferences. The specialists exchange knowledge, build capacity and establish partnerships benefiting participants, institutions and communities in both the United States and overseas, according to its website.

Shin’s next project with the State Department involves a five-month program in Serbia focusing on developing tolerance through graphic novels. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, it will be conducted virtually. Through this project, English language teachers will learn to use selected graphic novels to teach young learners and teenagers tolerance, raise intercultural awareness and develop the concepts of global citizenship.

Shin, who teaches through Mason’s College of Education and Human Development, also works with National Geographic Learning to create and edit a series of successful educational materials for teaching English to children. She recently collaborated with Jered Borup, another associate professor at CEHD, to conduct webinars on online teaching for English teachers worldwide.

“The work that I do through the State Department informs and helps the other work I do to improve education, and specifically learning English, around the world,” said Shin.