Friday, February 3, 2017

Dreams of Dollar General

Lately I've been noticing the improvements at the nearby Dollar General and struck up a conversation about it with the first employee I spotted. It turned out that he was the newly-returned manager, who had rolled up his sleeves and gotten busy with making that DG the best little neighborhood store he could. He was eager to talk about his management philosophy and the changes he'd made.

I want to work for him.

He explained the reson behind one of my pet peeves: The same kind of product is sometimes located in different areas of the store. This makes it a bit tough to comparison-shop, since unless you're very familiar with the store you won't realize that there's a different band of the same product an aisle over. It turns out that isn't a DG decision. The vendors choose where their product will be placed.

My first thought was to put little labels on the shelf, next to the prices, saying, "More X in the Y section." I had another thought on the walk home: Approach the vendor. Let's use the Nestle and Hershey chocolate syrups as an example. Nestle surely would like shoppers who see Hershey syrup to know that Nestle syrup is an option, right? While Nestle wouldn't want to give up the spot near the other hot drinks -- the tea and coffee -- perhaps cutting that shelf space in half and taking up a second space in the baking section would be appealing. Ditto for the Hershey people.

One would have to be mindful about available space, of course. Is there room for some Nestle next to the Hershey, and vice-versa? But I'm sure this manager knows his store like a captain knows a ship.

I had previously rejected Dollar General as a possible employer because when I spoke of problems to employees, they'd just sigh and say, "That's up to corporate." This gave the impression that Dollar General had a very rigid corporate structure of micro-management. But now I have hopes. It would be lovely to get some retail experience, particularly with the possibility of management experience.

Now my eyes are open to the possibilities.

Monday, January 18, 2016

TESOL Certification

When I'm looking for teaching jobs in Korea, I can ask my price as long as it's within reason, and I know what I'm worth to prospective employers. I also know that a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) makes me more valuable, and thus able to ask a higher salary. Thus, while I was in Korea, I used the abundance of down time during exams week to get certified.

The process of gaining certification also made me a better teacher, helping me in classroom management and in engaging the students.

Here are my certificate, transcript, and letter of recommendation from ICAL:

The Most Useful Thing

When I went away to college, going to college was the only goal. My father had been drafted during his senior year of high school and my mother had graduated 8th grade then gone to work to help to feed her family. They had remained behind in Germany when she'd married my father. Half of them were behind the Iron Curtain, mysterious shadows that really had nothing to do with my life other than knowing that my mother had left part of herself behind to come here. The half that had fled to the free West were nearly as mysterious, since at that time the Atlantic was still a barrier not nearly as easily crossed as it is now.

On this side of the Atlantic, in the family that was flesh and blood to me, my sister was the first ever to graduate from high school. She went briefly to art school in Pittsburgh, then joined the Army. Eventually she'd follow her art. But when I, six years behind her, crossed the stage at Berlin Brothersvalley High School and took my diploma in hand, there was another trail I had to blaze for my family. I had to graduate from college.

In those four years I took a lot of classes, from a bland public speaking class at which I excelled easily to an integral calculus class that I plugged away at until I was working problems aloud in my sleep. And it was in that integral calculus class that I learned the single must useful thing I learned in four years at Penn State.

Dr. Wells had a simple grading rule for exams. If you chose the right approach to the problem, you got a 50% score on that problem even if everything else you did was wrong. She had this grading rule, she told us, so that we would grasp fully that choosing the right approach was half of solving the problem.

I took that principle far past mathematics. It was the principle I used when I helped Doris to achieve the goals she had flailed at fruitlessly for ten years. It is, I think, the principle that makes me most useful and productive wherever I put my energies. And that's what I'm doing with this blog: looking for the right approach. It will bring me half way to the solution of how to put my capabilities and drive to the best possible use.

And here, almost as a post-script, are the diploma and transcript that I carried away in my hands. They've opened doors for me. But what I carried away in my head -- Dr. Wells' lesson about choosing the right approach -- is what I value most

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Letter of Recommendation: ICAL

To Whom It May Concern:

Christina E. Dunigan completed the ICAL TEFL/TESOL Certificate in September 2013. This certification course is 120 hours. The work involved all aspects of Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language including needs analysis, syllabus design, lesson planning, classroom management, strategies in language learning, teaching methods, testing & error correction etc.

I worked with Christina as her personal tutor and during her time with ICAL I was able to make a good assessment of her capabilities and progress through her work on the assignments.

Christina  came to this course already with some years' teaching experience and was working in Korea while studying for her ICAL Certificate. Her enthusiasm for teaching and genuine concern for her students were apparent throughout. In addition to doing coursework and assignments, she sometimes contacted me to discuss her own work situation. I was very impressed by the determination with which she dealt with initial problems in her current job, and the creativity she showed in devising  materials and activities to engage young learners who were initially poorly motivated and difficult to involve in classes.

Christina sets herself high standards and obviously put a considerable amount of time and care to her assignments. She approached the course with an open mind and showed herself eager to learn about new ideas and incorporate them into her teaching. She designed some beautiful visual materials and demonstrated a good understanding of all aspects of the course. Her lesson planning showed that she has a good awareness of student needs and interests, and is a good classroom manager. Christina also responded well to tutor feedback and always acted on the suggestions made.

On the bases of the quality of her work and my discussions with her, I feel she is an able and highly motivated teacher and that she would make a welcome addition to any school.

Jennie Hardacre

Letter of Recommendation: Dale Perkins, Nam Incheon SLP

Dale C. Perkins

August 31, 2005

Dear Sir or Madam:

I had the pleasure of working with Christina Dunigan at Sogang University Language Program's Nam Incheon academy for nearly two years. She was a valuable member of our team. The most valuable traits Christina brought to Nam Incheon SLP academy were:

  • Professionalism. Christina always gave full attention and effort to planning, teaching, and the inevitable paperwork that is a part of teaching.
  • Creativity. Christina was an excellent source of ideas for activities and materials for teaching. She knows many inventive games, and can quickly produce professional-quality flash cards, worksheets, and other classroom materials.
  • Teamwork. Christina was always willing to help other teachers, who would frequently go to her for advice and ideas, or to borrow her materials.
  • Rapport. Christina's students would rush in to greet her when they arrived every day. Even students who didn't attend her classes got to know her, and gathered around her when they got the chance.
  • Resourcefulness. Christina could readily adapt materials for a variety of activities tailored to the specific abilities and needs of her classes.

Christina is a credit to the teaching profession, and a valuable team member wherever she goes. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.


Dale Perkins
(Former) English Teacher
Sogang University Language Program, Nam Incheon Academy

Letter of Recommendation: David Condie, Nam Incheon SLP

To whom it may concern:

This is to certify that I have taught ESL with Christina Dunigan for a period of one year. During that tiem I have found her to be hard-working and enthusiastic. She has made many resources to enrich her teaching environment. She has worked as a team member and contributed to the overall success of the school. She has also maintained excellent records regarding her students.

Your Sincerely,

David Condie

Letter of Recommendation: Chris Park, Nam Incheon SLP

Chris Park
Director of Education
Sogang Language Program
Nam Incheon Academy
Incheon, South Korea

Dear Sir or Mada:

This is a letter of reference for Christina Dunigan, who worked as an ESL teacher at our school for a total of 23 months, between April 2003 and September of 2005.

Ms. Dunigan has proved to be a dedicated and very effective English teacher. She taught children between the ages of 4 and 14 on a full-time basis. Her duties included lesson planning, educational material development, assessment, and assisting in training new teachers, in addition to teaching. Ms. Dunigan has been a reliable and valuable member of our team.

Some of her specific accomplishment included:

  • creating numerous educational materials (worksheets, flash cards, etc.)
  • conducting an annual Halloween "haunted house"
  • helping students with speech tournaments
  • organizing shared teaching materials

Ms. Dunigan's enthusiasm and sense of humor made her class enjoyable, while her creativity and skill helped her students to make substantial progress in learning English. She volunteered to work overtime, teaching supplemental classes. She was always eager to help other teachers with ideas for activities and lessons.

Ms. Dunigan established a strong rapport with her students. The children love to interact with her both in and out of the classroom. She always made the effort not only to make learning fun for them, but also to give the students a rich cultural experience.

If you have any questions about Ms. Dunigan, please contact me here at the school.


Chris Park
Director of Education
SLP - Nam Incheon