Wednesday, November 10, 2010

LIEP Faculty Member Jess Haley and the New Orleans Culture Class

Jess Haley teaches our New Orleans Culture Class. “The New Orleans Culture Class is great for me because I am also a transplant,” Jess says. “What our students need to learn and understand about New Orleans is what I also need to learn and understand.”
Jess has come to the Loyola Intensive English Program from the University of Mississippi, where she worked as an archeologist. Her love for linguistics, cultural anthropology, and teaching led her to the field of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). Jess holds Masters degrees in both anthropology and TESOL.

Jess believes that the cultural context of language is as important as the structure of language. “It is important to learn not only the language structures but also what you can do with language,” she says. “I encourage students to be creative and relevant with how they learn English.”

Jess describes New Orleans as “daunting, colorful, crazy, and exotic.” To help students make sense of the city, Jess first teaches vocabulary, history, and traditions, using lectures, exercises, and class discussions. “But,” she says, “it’s one thing to talk and another to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.” So the Culture Class continues with experiences beyond the classroom walls.

  • The students learn about Cajun cooking . . . and then the class cooks and eats a flavorful jambalaya.
  • The students learn about Halloween . . . and then the class throws a Halloween party with candy, masks, and the thriller dance.
  • The students learn about the French Quarter . . . and then the class rides the streetcar to the French Quarter, where they use maps and their skill in asking directions to find their favorite spots.
  • The students learn about styles of New Orleans music . . . and then the class sings and dances. In fact, the Culture Class is in the process of preparing a dance hour when they will teach dances to Loyola students and faculty.

“I want the students to teach themselves more than I give them in class,” says Jess. “I want them to see language not just as a subject to be studied but as a tool for getting around successfully in their lives in New Orleans.”

The New Orleans Culture Class has a blog, where you can find more about their explorations of New Orleans culture, at this link:

Our next post will feature several of our advanced LIEP students who are preparing to study for graduate degrees in various fields.

Photo credit: Wadner Pierre
You can find more of Wadner's work on his photo website at or on his blog at

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