Caron Lieber attended the University of Southern California where she studied communications. Later she became the vice president of the tenth largest construction company in Southern California, working in public relations, membership, and marketing. Eight years later she began a family. Lieber decided to study ESL because it would allow her to work part-time while raising her kids. For 20 years she worked in Fallbrook at two North County schools and soon began working on special assignments with Van Hillier, TESL/TEFL certificate coordinator at the American Language Institute at San Diego State University, where she later heard about a part-time teaching position and jumped at the chance.
Lieber currently teaches the Vocabulary and Pronunciation Through the Arts (VPA) class in the English for Academic Purpose (EAP) program. Students in the class learn English by studying art and music. Lieber is not only the teacher, but also the mastermind behind the course. She designed the class and all of the elements within it. “I love art and I love music, and I can really see how you can teach academic vocabulary and pronunciation through those subjects,” she says.
The course is setup so students can learn English and create their own artwork at the same time. “I have a class where every two weeks we study an artist and then we do a drawing in his/her art style. Then the other week we study a musical artist and learn a song that either the musical artist wrote or sang, and then we learn the whole back story. That’s how it works and it seems to be successful.”
The style of the class allows students to absorb language skills through nontraditional learning methods. Lieber explains, “Through art and all the readings we do, we study pronunciation, grammar acquisition, speaking acquisition and vocabulary acquisition. But it’s all natural because the focus is on the content, not so much the grammar or vocabulary.” Music and Art Appreciation is set up as a production class. Very rarely are students given tests to determine their success. “If they are actually in class participating, then that’s what they’re getting graded on,” says Lieber.
The Music and Art Appreciation class not only gives students a unique way to learn English, but it also provides a broader understanding of music and art. “In ALI we’re trying to teach them ESL or English, and English culture, to prepare them to go into the real world or college. I think that these art elements are helpful and will give them a very broad breath on English culture. It gives them a dimension they didn’t have before.”