Alumni Feature on Alex Klimkewicz

Alex Klimkewicz with students
Alex Klimkewicz with students

Current location: I’ve spent the last semester student teaching at Geneseo High School in Geneseo, IL, in a Secondary English Language Arts classroom. Once I finish the licensure process, I will be moving somewhere new.

Hometown: Kewanee, IL

UIS Degree: Certificate, Secondary Education, 2018

Teaching in Korea

After finishing my bachelor’s degree at Eureka College, I moved to South Korea where I spent seven years teaching English as a Foreign Language. I worked with students of every age from elementary to middle to high school. I also tutored some adults. My teaching career started without any formal training. At my first English Academy, I shadowed the departing teacher for a few lessons and then took over all of his classes. This was a pure “trial-by-fire” experience, but I learned quickly on the job how to cope with teaching students who did not share my language. Later, after I moved on from after-school academies, I taught with a co-teacher in a Korean public school.

Uprooting and moving to a completely new place where you do not know another soul is a very scary yet completely thrilling and life-enhancing experience. I was lucky to make friends from around the globe during my time in Korea. Living in a place for so long really gave me a feel for the language, culture, and food in a way that travelling simply could not have.

Personally speaking, I grew my communication skills immensely while I lived and worked in Korea. Teachers need to be expressive in front of their students. Body language, gesturing, and facial expressions are crucial for teaching English language learners. I think I learned how to differentiate my instruction (based on English ability levels) before I really ever learned the term differentiation. Surviving for so long in a foreign country also requires a willingness to embrace what may be uncomfortable. I had plenty of great experiences because I was willing to try new foods, meet new people, or just go off the beaten path. A desire for novel experiences and an honest sense of humor were also necessary for surviving as a long-term expatriate.

I don’t think that there are too many freshly certified teachers who have the better part of a decade in education under their belt. I learned how to teach in Korea, but at UIS, I have filled in pedagogical gaps that remained after my time in the trenches.

Highlights from my time at UIS:

While at UIS, I really enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm demonstrated by many of the UIS professors. Dr. Kahn has taught me a lot in terms of considering the social-emotional aspects of learners. He has a wealth of knowledge and constructed very beneficial collaborative learning opportunities.

My favorite class was Kara McElwrath’s Technology for Teachers. I think it is important to embrace emerging technologies and integrate them into the classroom. In terms of concrete classroom readiness, TEP305 offers future teachers real world applications that they can use within their lessons. My cooperating teacher also advocates for using technological tools throughout the curriculum.

Along those lines, my favorite project was a podcast that I recorded for TEP419. I interviewed three other teachers about the value of literacy instruction in the classroom. Presenting my work as a podcast allowed me to explore an exciting technology, something that I would like to do with other teachers and/or students someday.

While I did my two years of study at UIS, I also worked as a special education paraprofessional at a small rural high school. While there, I started an Asian Culture Appreciation Club. It was wonderful to share my love for K-pop, Korean food, Asian languages, board games, and history with the students of Galva Junior/Senior High School. I was able to showcase a different culture that most students had never been exposed to before. My best experiences included cooking with these students. We made dishes such as pad thai, kimchi, and soldier stew (ramen, spam, and kimchi). I also shared with them a tin of silk worm larva that I’d brought home from my time abroad. My students were just as adventurous eaters as I am!

What I consider most beneficial from my UIS certificate

With my certificate, I’ll be able to get a “real” teaching job.

More about me

  • Hobby: Reading! I just finished The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco. In many of my classes I do a read aloud, so I’m also reading Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Heidicker, Rikers High by Paul Volponi, and A Step from Heaven by An Na.
  • Interesting fact about myself: In order to test the idea of growth mindset I taught myself how to juggle. Subsequently, I overcome an entity view of my lack of coordination.
  • Favorite movies: I’m really fond of horror films. My favorite directors are George Romeo, Lucio Fulci, and John Carpenter.
  • Favorite TV shows: Right now, my favorite TV shows are Black Mirror, Doc Martin, Life in Pieces, and Arrested Development.
  • Someone who has inspired me: My grandmother June Klimkewicz. Life has given her several hard knocks, but she has always bounced back with an admirable resiliency.

Final comment

I’ve tortured friends and family by telling them that I’m moving to China for my next teaching job. Realistically, I’d settle for somewhere closer to home like Alaska or Hawaii.