LCC International University connects many people, who join the community with the same purpose - to learn, teach and inspire. The LCC community members are proud of their connections and relationships developed over the years of studying and teaching. Oleksandra Smoliar was a student at LCC when Paul Almonte was teaching literature at the time. Eight years later, they have rejoined forces, and now are colleagues in the English Department at LCC.
Dr. Almonte’s history with LCC International University goes back to 2008 when he came as a volunteer teacher in the Summer Language Institute. “For a few summers, I volunteered at LCC teaching literature class. We had also discussed the opportunity for me to apply to the Fulbright Scholar program,” said Paul. Having extensive experience as an English professor, Paul then joined LCC International University in 2013 on the Fulbright fellowship, again teaching literature courses in the English department. When asked why he decided to pursue a career in English he commented, “It was always a combination of loving literature and reading, and enjoying teaching.”
As the years went by, Professor Almonte continued growing his international education background, most recently helping to start an American-style university in the Middle East, ‘The American University of Iraq - Baghdad." Shortly after, Robin Gingerich, MA TESOL Program Director and J.D. Mininger, Vice President of Academics reached out and invited Paul to come back to LCC. This Spring 2021 semester, Paul Almonte is a professor in the LCC English Department and is teaching two sections of the Arts and Culture course and another in Academic Writing.
Not only led by the good impression that he held of LCC International University, but after learning of his Lithuanian heritage, Paul was even more interested in returning to LCC. He was fascinated by the Lithuanian culture and wanted to find out more about his own heritage and roots (his mother having been born in the country and having emigrated to the U.S. in 1949), thus being a part of LCC again made perfect sense. “LCC is a place that has been near and dear to my heart,” he added.
At LCC, every member of the community leaves a positive imprint on someone’s life, whether it is from simply a nice word at the right time, or a long-lasting connection between professors and students. Back in 2013, Oleksandra Smoliar was pursuing her Bachelor’s degree, majoring in English at LCC International University, and was a student in Paul Almonte’s literature class. “The classes were amazing because he was a very interesting professor. I also got to know him better as he was also helping with the student newspaper as a faculty advisor,” said Oleksandra. “During my years as a student, I already knew that I wanted to stay at LCC after graduation.” Seeking a broader knowledge in academics, she enrolled in the Master’s TESOL program at LCC. Oleksandra already felt that LCC was her home and eventually things fell into place when she received an opportunity immediately after defending her thesis, to stay and serve as an English/Russian translation teacher. Oleksandra hadn’t envisioned herself in the teaching profession, but had been exposed to the environment in her family and then also witnessing the great relationships between professors and students at LCC, made her reconsider her career path.
Now, Oleksandra is teaching Arts and Culture courses alongside her former professor, Paul Almonte. “When I heard that he was coming back to teach at LCC in this Spring semester 2021, and that he was to be teaching some classes in Arts & Culture, I was pleasantly surprised. I have been teaching the Arts & Culture class since Spring 2020, and learning that Dr. Almonte would be my partner in this class was incredible,” said Oleksandra. Same as Oleksandra, Paul Almonte cherishes only good memories, “It's incredibly exciting to see someone on their career path, eight years later. Seeing a former student succeed is the ultimate excitement. It's a wonderful idea that someone is now a colleague after having been a student,” said Paul.
Although Oleksandra and Paul have different curriculum for their own Arts & Culture courses, they do discuss the classes, and the material they present to the students. “I know that students are going to have a great time in his classes. They are going to learn a lot because I myself have been his student and had a lot of fun learning,” said Oleksandra reminiscing of Professor Almonte’s lectures.
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