Drew S. Fagan, associate clinical professor and TESOL program coordinator at the University of Maryland College of Education, has received the prestigious 2023 TESOL Teacher of the Year Award from TESOL International Association, the world’s largest association of English language educators. Presented by National Geographic Learning, the award is the top teaching honor in the field of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and recognizes exceptional English language teaching at all levels. The association, which has more than 11,000 members in nearly 170 countries worldwide, announced Fagan as its Teacher of the Year on February 24. Fagan accepted the award in Portland, Oregon, during the 2023 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo on March 21.
“To me, this award is the culmination of more than two decades of working to ensure that those who want to learn a new language for whatever reason have the chance to do so in a way that interweaves their already lived experiences with their future goals,” said Fagan.
“I am thrilled that Dr. Fagan has been honored with one of the highest awards in the TESOL field,” said Kimberly Griffin, dean of the College of Education. “This honor is so well deserved. Dr. Fagan is a passionate leader and has been an outstanding advocate for English language learners and educators through his research, efforts to shape state policy and mentorship of current and future TESOL teachers.”
At the College of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, Fagan teaches applied linguistics and language education, leads the TESOL program and serves as associate director of the Multilingual Research Center. His research examines how educators’ interactions may promote or hinder opportunities for English learners’ language and content learning in the classroom. Fagan believes that “all educators, not just ESOL specialists, play a role in educating English learners,” and as such, his current research focuses on preparing non-ESOL teachers, specialists, school support staff and administrators to address the language, academic, cultural and, if applicable, exceptional needs of K-12 English learners in the United States.
In addition to his work at the University of Maryland, Fagan is a leader in advancing TESOL statewide. As the 2022-2023 Maryland TESOL Association President, he has worked to establish the association’s new mentorship program, which connects TESOL professionals from across the state. In addition, Fagan has helped to shape statewide policy for English learners. The Maryland State Department of Education invited him to serve on multiple committees, including the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future: Workgroup on English Learners in Public Schools and the External Stakeholders Committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act Maryland State Plan.
Fagan’s passion for learning languages started in childhood, inspired by his close relationship with his Italian great-grandmother, who spoke very little English. His work as an ESOL teacher, teacher educator and researcher has taken him around the world, from Japan to Mexico to China to Spain. Fagan was the first Teaching English as a Foreign Language Fulbright Fellow in the Slovak Republic, where he taught English and U.S. culture to university students and studied how English language curricula changed in the country following the end of communism. He holds an Ed.D. in TESOL from Teachers College, Columbia University, an M.A. in linguistics from San Diego State University and a B.A. in international relations and Spanish from American University.
“In the TESOL field, we are more than language specialists; we are counselors, content co-teachers, interlingual administrative assistants, peer educators and community liaisons, to name a few roles,” Fagan said. “We need to be cognizant of working with different populations of students, families, colleagues and communities and understand that everyone brings their own ‘funds of knowledge’ and ways of approaching teaching and learning to the table. Just having this understanding at the outset can lead to more equitable education opportunities for different populations of people.”
As the recipient of the TESOL Teacher of the Year Award, Fagan received a one-year membership to TESOL International Association, a selection of TESOL publications, a complimentary registration and travel expenses for the 2023 TESOL International Convention & English Language Expo and a cash award. As an invited speaker at the annual convention, Fagan delivered a presentation titled “Towards Embodying the Multidimensional Role of ESOL Teacher in 2023.”