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Seasider Spotlight: Juan Escalante

Juan Escalante
Photo by Monique Saenz

Name: Juan Escalante

BYUH employee since: January 2020

BYUH alum: class of 2015

My job at BYUH is... assistant professor in the English Language and Learning Program

I was born in... Southern Mexico but also grew up north in Sonora. Then, just before my 15th birthday, my family moved to Bandon, Oregon—a town known for crabbing, fishing, golf, and cranberries.

I'm currently teaching... TESOL and EIL courses, but my favorite class to teach is the EIL 320. It's for upperclassmen, so I get to challenge my students and push them to grow. At the start of a semester, I always tell students we will do hard things but do them together.

I chose to teach at BYUH because... I always wanted to return to this university. I remember sitting in my TESOL 240 class as a student and getting the overwhelming feeling that I should return to BYUH as a professor. Other factors, such as the students, faculty, community, and the university's mission, led me back. Here, not only can I feed my family, but I can also help gather Israel and teach other children of God. Then, to top it off, it's Hawaii. I can't think of a more perfect environment.

My favorite thing about teaching... is helping students realize their potential. Students in my field are different from most because they have to learn English. They are bright and talented, but the language is a huge barrier. Helping them gradually bridge that gap and express themselves in writing and speech is extremely rewarding.

Best advice I've ever received about teaching... there was a full-time position I wanted, but I had a few years to prepare. I was encouraged to get involved and volunteer my help in any capacity. I learned that every task is manageable, and I can do anything I'm committed to doing, especially so my leaders know I'm reliable.

My advice to incoming first-year students is... get to know your professors. Go to their office hours. Naturally, students feel intimidated about approaching professors. We have minimal time in the classroom to take care of everyone the way they deserve. If you have questions, schedule an appointment and talk to us.

Professor Juan Escalante standing outside, he is the focal point of the image.
Photo by Monique Saenz

Moving to the United States at age 15 ...sparked my interest in my field. When I moved to the United States in my youth, I couldn't speak English. Since we were the only family in the area learning English, we were self-taught. Learning English this way was frustrating and challenging. However, that experience sparked an interest in what I do now. It's my way of improving other lives and easing that challenge for our students.

I'm currently working on... several studies on artificial intelligence (AI) and looking at AI generative tools such as ChatGPT. Other BYUH professors and I are exploring how these tools can be used in English language learning and teaching.

On Saturday mornings, you'll find me... taking my daughter to the beach to take photos. But if it's the fall, you'll find me watching football with my wife. We're big college football fans.

If I could travel anywhere, I would go to... to Europe because... there's so much history I'd love to experience through touring various towns and buildings. I want to experience the different cultures there.

When I have 30 minutes of free time... I'll take some pictures. Hawaii is the perfect place to get out and shoot some photos.

My go-to comfort food... pastries. I recommend Ted's Bakery for a nice pastry on the North Shore.

I collect... pins from places I visit.

Some of my hobbies include... photography, playing soccer, and eating.

Something that can make my day instantly better is... my daughters. They're so tender and have such big hearts.

One item on my bucket list is... continuing faculty status.

I'm most looking forward to... attending a conference in September at Columbia University in New York City, New York. I'll present research on using AI in teaching and learning English with colleagues from BYU–Hawaii. Additionally, I look forward to submitting this research to upcoming conferences in Thailand and Singapore.