ALI Instructor Profile – Kenny Capps

Kenny CappsWhen Kenny Capps was a child, his mother joked about him one day digging a hole to China to see the world.

By the time he was 19, he really was in China, working as a teacher at an English summer camp in Qingdao. It was the beginning of a multi-cultural journey that has seen the current SDSU American Language Institute instructor teach and study in such places as China, Japan, and Taiwan.

Growing up in a small town about 100 miles southwest of Spokane, Wash., Kenny longed to get out of the jurisdiction of about 5,000 residents as soon as possible.

“I grew up in a rural area and wanted to get a different perspective,” he said. “There was not much diversity where I grew up. I wanted to get out on my own and see what was going on in the world. That’s all I wanted to have.”

Kenny expedited his exit from town by taking college-level courses, along with prep courses, his last two years of high school. He did so well that his high school graduation was on a Friday and his community college graduation was two days later. “I had two caps and gowns for the weekend,” he said.

After community college, Kenny went to China for the summer before enrolling at Eastern Washington University. The following summer, he was teaching English as a Second Language in China. Kenny returned again the next summer and assisted as an English teacher with adult learners in a university setting. (Teaching runs deep in his family with his mother, grandparents, and all three sisters also being teachers.)

Teaching the second time around in China taught him a very important lesson.

“My first class was supposed to be two hours and I ran through the curriculum in one hour,” he said. “That’s when I learned to look at what the students needed first and not just go by a lesson plan. The lesson plan is important. What the students need is more important.”

During Kenny’s time at Eastern Washington University, he worked as the international student and scholar advisor, having earlier managed the international peer advisor staff for the English language program. In addition, he spent one year as a cultural exchange student in Taiwan, which he considers his second home, and returned there as recently as last December. In fact, he has twice served as the best man in Taiwanese weddings.

“My biggest challenge was having a toast in Taiwanese with 600 people at my friend’s wedding,” he said. “It’s not a small feat for someone who spent one year studying in Taiwan.”

Before coming to the ALI in August 2013, Kenny spent three years teaching English as a Second Language at Asia University in Tokyo.

As an instructor at ALI, Kenny has coordinated the professional development program as well as taught English for Academic Purposes (EAP), Intensive English for Communication (IEC), and International Business English (IBE). He also worked on the technology side for the TESL/TEFL (Teaching English as a Second Language/Teaching English as a Foreign Language) program.

Most recently, he helped develop the groundbreaking Social Entrepreneurship (SE) curriculum at the ALI. The SE program focuses on creating businesses that solve social problems. A prime example is TOMS Shoes, which matches every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes for a person in need.

“This program is amazing,” Kenny said. “Students are looking at business and social issues. Not only are they figuring out how to make money, they are improving the world.”

And improving the world has long been something that Kenny has advocated for.