Student Spotlight: Matthew Giles

Matthew Giles did not always know he wanted to teach, but after his first time in a classroom, he realized it was his calling. A New Jersey native and graduate of Rutgers University, Matthew spent five years working in recruiting in the financial and legal services industries. He left recruiting in 2008 to pursue two of his primary passions: education and travel. After four years as an English language teacher and business consultant in both Costa Rica and the Philippines, he decided to pursue his Master of Arts in Teaching at USC. We caught up with Matthew to find out about his background, his hobbies, why he chose USC Rossier and why he’s passionate about education.

Education: Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Rutgers University.
Occupation: Senior International Admissions Counselor, @WashULaw; Instructor, @WashULaw legal English program.
Favorite books: “This Side of Paradise” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Stand” by Stephen King, and “Don Quixote” by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra.
TV: Anything by Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern, and anything that relates to the NFL.
Hobbies: Reading and basketball.
Loves: My wife Kathrina, my daughter Isabella, and the rest of my extended global family.

Why did you decide to pursue the Master of Arts–Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages?
I chose the Master of Arts in Teaching program because the USC Rossier School of Education has a demonstrable track record of being at the forefront of issues related to disadvantaged students, both here and abroad. I wanted my education to combine theory with discussions of the complex sociocultural issues that are often downplayed in other programs that I have researched. In both my current and future teaching contexts, issues of educational access and equity are incredibly important and I felt that the Master of Arts in Teaching at USC Rossier would provide me the best opportunity to learn how to work with those students effectively.

What do you hope to accomplish upon graduation?
Upon graduation, I hope to continue my work in international education. I am especially interested in issues related to improving education access to students in impoverished and isolated places. The opportunity to take a great MAT–TESOL program while also gaining insight, both as a student and teacher, into the potential power of online education resources to impact educational access issues was especially compelling.

Why are you passionate about education?
I am passionate about education because it really is one of the few things that truly matter to every person everywhere, whether they acknowledge it or not. The lack of education does as much to shape us as having abundant access to it. Few things are as universally meaningful to both individuals and nations as education. My belief is that if you’re going to do something with your life, make it something meaningful to yourself and others.

Did you have any hesitations about earning your degree online?
I had taken basic online classes before and was unimpressed to say the least. Thankfully, there is no comparison between my prior experience and this one. The MAT program is by no means easy. In many ways, given that our classes are so small and that everyone can see and hear one another all the time, there is really no way to be anything less than prepared and engaged. My suggestion would be for any skeptic to take a real look at the classes and compare them to any previous online learning experiences. I have yet to find a person who was not impressed with what the learning management system provides for students.

What has the work-life-school balance been like for you and do you have any advice for future students?
Work-life-school balance isn’t easy! You will attend class, though you can do it in your sweatpants. You will have readings, papers, group assignments, placements — and they will all take some of your time. At times, it will feel like a lot. I have a newborn, a job, a part-time job and a graduate program to juggle and some days are not fun. But no matter how tired I may be, at the end of class I always remember why I decided to do it. My classes leave me energized and inspired. The professors have a knack for keeping the class sessions engaging and you really do get to know your classmates really well. Your classmates will help keep you motivated.

Do you have a favorite professor?
Singling out a favorite is unfair because I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my professors so far. Yet Dr. Melanie Calvert’s New Media Literacies class was really incredible. For someone who is highly interested in educational access and how technology may be used to help close that gap, Dr. Calvert’s encyclopedic knowledge and passion were incredible to see every week. She not only has the knowledge, but her teaching style is incredibly engaging.