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  “That was hectic, but we pulled it off and students were able to finish their session and get their studies done. Some of them have come back for the summer,” he said.
AEI instructors use Zoom video calls and a learning management system to interact with students, Merson said.
“We're always watching webinars or reading journals about how to effectively teach ESL online,” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Merson and Tobar are working on a self- paced program as well.
“We’re just exploring the online realm and adapting to the realities,” Merson said.
AEI will continue to offer several 8-week sessions throughout the year, including early spring, late spring, summer, early fall, and late fall. Students typically enroll in an entire semester, but some complete just one 8-week session if they are at a higher level of English already, Merson said.
Offering several sessions better accommo- dates international students, Tobar added.
“It allows us to open our program up to countries that have school years that don't exactly align with US school years,” she explained. “So they might not be able to start in January, but they can start in March. It allows us to make that a little bit easier for students if they want to come here to study.”
For more information on AEI’s programs, session dates, and application deadlines:
Because of the small class sizes -- typically 20 to 25 students -- and the many hours spent together each week, AEI students and staff become a close-knit family, Mer- son and Tobar said.
“We try very hard to make sure the students know that we support them, and we'll help, even if it's just a chat,” Tobar said. “I don’t know how many times we had students who would just come in and chat with us during their break... It's really special, the unique relationship we have with them.”
secoNDary MissioN
AEI is proud of teaching English to interna- tional students and community members, as well as training ESL teachers through a partnership with Fresno State’s Depart- ment of Linguistics.
“Teaching English is our first primary mis- sion, but second is to train the next gen- eration of English teachers,” Merson said.
We are very proud of that program. A lot of those students and upcoming teachers love coming here to start their careers in
ESL or elsewhere. They always speak highly of their experience in the practicum.” ~ Merson
Prospective ESL teachers log instruction and observation hours at AEI and are guid- ed in student teaching by a mentor teacher, Merson explained.
“I especially have a soft spot for our lin- guistics program and our teacher training because that's how I got into AEI,” Tobar said. “I was a linguistics major. I did my practicum there. Then I was a conversation partner, then they hired me as a teacher and then I ended up becoming co-director (of AEI). I think it’s a great program and I am proud to be a part of the Continuing and Global Education family.”
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