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Betsy Gilliland


Associate Professor
Second Language Studies

I am at heart a teacher, and I feel most energized professionally when I get to work with other teachers, supporting them in their work. I particularly love helping teachers develop ways to better support their students’ writing processes.

Although I have always worked in education, I arrived at being a professor through a roundabout route. I started out teaching Russian and swimming, then pursued an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages in order to teach university English majors as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan. That experience led me to teaching international students and local first-year students at San José State University in California, where I discovered how much I enjoy helping students discover their skills for writing. Teaching writing then led me to questions about what my college students had learned about writing in high school, which became my motivation to study for a PhD in Education at the University of California Davis. I’ve been at UH Mānoa since I completed my PhD in 2012.

At UHM, I teach undergraduate and graduate courses about second language writing, multilingual literacy, and language teaching. I also take groups of SLS students to Thailand for a two-month teaching practicum alternate summers; my students get to teach English to Thai university students while I support their development as reflective language teachers. I’ve been honored to receive the UHM Presidential Citation for Meritorious Teaching (2021) and the College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literatures Excellence in Teaching Award (2018).

My research and publication work is also focused on second language writing and language teacher’s work. I recently co-edited the book Empowering the Community College First-Year Composition Teacher: Pedagogies and Policies (2021, University of Michigan Press) and co-wrote another book, Beyond “Teaching to the Test”: Rethinking Accountability and Assessment for English Language Learners (2017, National Council of Teachers of English). Both of these books are intended to be read by teachers (community college writing teachers for the former, secondary school language arts teachers for the latter), and they offer concrete, practical, but also research-based ideas that teachers can implement in their classrooms. I also publish my research in academic journals, often writing with graduate students.

I’m honored to be an affiliate faculty for the Center for Teaching Excellence and look forward to continued collaboration in years to come!