In January 2018, Anna (Anya) Nesterchouk began her new role as Program Coordinator and On-Site Director for the Pushkin Summer Institute (PSI) at UW-Madison. Nesterchouk, a lecturer in the English as a Second Language (ESL) Department with extensive experience in ESL/EFL/RFL language training, curriculum design, and teacher training, has been an instructor with the PSI since 2012. She holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with a specialization in world language education from Yaroslavl State Pedagogical University in Russia. The Pushkin Summer Institute at UW-Madison is a six-week summer program for exceptional high school students that combines intensive Russian-language training with lectures and lessons about the life and work of Alexander Pushkin, Russia’s national poet.
Nesterchouk’s pedagogical aim is to provide students with opportunities for making lingo-cultural discoveries through a meaningful learning process. She is primarily interested in developing intercultural competence from the novice level of proficiency. Nesterchouk’s other professional interests include second language acquisition, intercultural education, holistic language learning, heritage learning education, the Deep Approach to language learning, and world language immersion camps.
CREECA spoke with Nesterchouk to learn more about her plans for the 2018 Pushkin Summer Institute and its students.
What experiences are you bringing to the PSI?
I have taught Russian as a Second and Foreign Language at K-12 and post-secondary levels. I also taught Russian at a local community language school for over 10 years and was the director of the Madison Russian School for half a decade.
How has the PSI grown during your time with the program?
I have worked every summer as an instructor at PSI since the program began. I have also been an instructional lead and the curriculum developer for the STARTALK program since 2014, which has given me the opportunity to be part of the growing process. We started with 12 outstanding students, and now we have over 30 participants from Pritzker College Prep and The Noble Academy in Chicago, and also Friends Academy in Baltimore. But our growth has not just been in numbers: our Novice students have been consistently demonstrating substantial language gains, often graduating from the program at the Novice High or Intermediate Low level [according to the scale developed by American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages] after just six weeks.
What are your favorite things about working with students from this age group?
I love it. They are still children, so they are very high-energy, fun-loving, and adventurous. But they are also becoming young adults on the verge of making important life decisions, and it is incredibly rewarding to offer guidance and support, reassurance and encouragement.
How do PSI students benefit from their time in a residential language program?
That is a great question. I could answer it by listing all the benefits that I and other PSI team members see, but I think it would be fairest to include students’ voices in this answer. In reflections that they wrote at the end of summer 2017, students said the following about the Pushkin Summer Institute:
“Not only did I become a confident speaker, I got to experience the real college life. It was really nice to experience some independence because I learned how to manage my time well and plan ahead.”
“I have grown tremendously as a Russian speaker and as a person.”
“This program is one of the most life changing events for me. I have new views on how to plan college and future studying.”
“My favorite thing was learning about Pushkin! I love, love, love his thinking. The essays we wrote were very interesting.”
What do you most want your students to get from their time at UW-Madison?
Ultimately I want them to explore Alexander Pushkin’s works and Russian culture, establish their own views, and then use the knowledge and skills they acquire in the program to learn about other parts of the world.
What are your plans for the future of the program?
We plan to continue offering this unique summer program, and possibly to expand the age range of our students. We are hoping that more and more PSI graduates will be choosing UW-Madison to continue their education and then join the Russian Flagship program here. We would also like to see the expansion of our successful PSI Abroad program in Daugavpils, Latvia to offer a study abroad opportunity to more of our PSI alumni.
The Pushkin Summer Institute has received funding from STARTALK for the 2018 program at UW-Madison. UW-Madison is also an implementing organization for NSLI-Y, which funds the Pushkin Summer Institute Abroad in Daugavpils, Latvia.