Staff Profile – Jason Greeno – Assistant Director, TESL/TEFL Certificate Program

Jason GreenoJason Greeno spent the last month of his senior year at University of San Diego High School (now Cathedral Catholic) in Japan as part of a sister city exchange program.

“I had never traveled outside of the U.S. or Mexico,” he recalled. “I absolutely loved my experience of going to a Japanese high school and living with a Japanese family. After that, I wanted to travel more.”

Little did he know that the time in Japan – and the travel bug – would lead to his current position as assistant director of the TESL/TEFL Certificate program at SDSU’s American Language Institute (ALI) that prepares novice instructors to successfully live and teach English overseas.

After high school, Greeno’s parents drove him to virtually every California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) campus. He applied many places, deciding on UC Santa Cruz because it was in a redwood forest, with a view of the beach.

Knowing that he wanted to work with people, he majored in psychology. As graduation approached at UC Santa Cruz, an acquaintance mentioned that his brother could get the San Diego native a teaching job in Korea. Greeno jumped at the chance to get out again and explore the world.

Although he knew virtually nothing about teaching, he was able to get assignments from the elementary to high school levels, as well as at a private school. Speaking, listening comprehension, pronunciation, and American culture were what he found himself focusing on the most during his time in Kunsan, Korea.

“They were looking for a cultural ambassador,” he said. “Many of the people had never seen a foreigner; 99.9 percent of them were Korean. I may have been the only non-Korean they would see. I even got my picture in the paper. It turned out to be a rewarding experience. It set me on my career path.”

Upon returning to San Diego, Greeno knew he had a career decision to make. Fortunately, his mother’s best friend worked for the SDSU Research Foundation and gave solid advice: Get some experience as a volunteer, and obtain a master’s degree.

Greeno did both. He volunteered as a facilitator (teacher’s aide) during the day at ALI and earned his master’s at night in cross-cultural education with an emphasis in linguistics.

He subsequently worked as a substitute teacher in the Cajon Valley Union and San Diego Unified school districts. He found that substituting was not a steady occupation, so he went to Intensive English for Communication (IEC) program director Linda Lawton at ALI and asked for more hours.

Luckily, the ALI was growing at the time (as it is now) and Greeno started in an hourly position. Several years after he joined ALI, the new Americans Teaching English as a Foreign Language (amTEFL) program launched and Greeno was invited to be on staff. That curriculum has grown into the current TESL/TEFL (Teaching English as a Second Language/Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate program.

Ironically, Greeno now sees a lot of himself in the students he instructs in the TESL/TEFL Certificate program which has sent more than 700 individuals to 40-plus countries to teach.

“I was a young, American English-speaker in Korea,” he said. “So many of my students are afraid they won’t get a job. There is a huge demand for native-English speaking teachers abroad. With an undergraduate degree and a certificate, the possibilities are practically endless.”

A third-generation San Diegan, Greeno feels right at home at SDSU.

“I love being on campus,” he said. “Both of my parents went to SDSU. Being back here on campus just feels like the right thing to do. I am extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing group of coworkers.

“Being on campus and working with people I am lucky to call my friends is a lot of fun.  It never gets old.”