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Dr. Peter Byun has a passion for teaching and sees his students as future leaders.

“When you teach ESL learners, don’t think of it as a chore, but rather, as a privilege. It’s a privilege to help them become future American leaders.”


As a professor at the California School of Education (CSOE) helping prepare candidates to teach ESL students, Dr. Peter Byun brings years of professional experience, a doctorate, and two master’s degrees. But it’s his personal experience of learning English as a second language that has provided the strongest foundation for his teaching career.

Peter grew up in a small city in South Korea and then went to Seoul to earn his bachelor’s degree. After graduating from university, he served in the military and joined KATUSA, the Korean Augmentation to the United States Army where he lived with native English speakers. Peter credits that experience as an integral part of his learning English because he believes that immersion is very important when learning a second language.

Peter taught English in South Korea for six and a half years and then realized he needed to dive deeper into this subject matter if he wanted to truly help people and elevate his career. He went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he earned a PhD in Linguistics, SLATE (Second Language Acquisition and Teacher Education), and two master’s degrees: one in Linguistics and the other in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). “I'm always interested in how people learn second languages. At the University of Illinois, I taught various ESL learners, an undergraduate course in linguistics, and I taught my native language, Korean, to students. Having these teaching experiences helped me view the second language acquisition from both perspectives: native English speakers and non-native English speakers.”

When Peter came to Alliant in 2015, he started in the TESOL program at CSOE and eventually moved to the teacher education program with a specialty in second-language acquisition. He prepares candidates to help EL students who are often immigrant children coming through the K-12 school system who may know little to no English. “It’s crucial that these children receive the help they need to learn English otherwise they will suffer in all of their classes. They end up just sitting in the corner doing nothing. I've observed this. Teachers should be prepared and trained to help them be successful in the classroom and there are many ways to do that. If the teacher is aware of the EL strategies and accommodations and has the passion to help a child, using those techniques, it can make all the difference.”

Peter’s enthusiasm for teaching is obvious and he believes that teaching is his calling. “I love teaching and helping people! It is in my genes and somehow that guided me to this career. When I see my students changing and becoming successful, those are the most inspiring things for me.” Peter wants his students to remember that they are teaching children, not subjects. And he reminds them to make their lives meaningful and to be happy with that. “You want to make your life meaningful, in the real sense, not materialistically or according to what other people say.”

One of the things that Peter believes teachers can do is help shape and impact future leaders. “Who are the leaders of America? I think the leaders of America are the people who make a difference where they are. Whether it’s in school, a courtroom, a construction site, or wherever. I usually emphasize that part to my students. When you teach ESL learners, don’t think of it as a chore but as a privilege. You’re helping them to become future American leaders. Because when they go into a particular field and make a difference, they will be leaders.”

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