LaVona Reeves

Dr. LaVona Reeves, Ph.D.

Professor of English, She/her/hers

Degrees Held:

  • Ph. D. English – Linguistics & Rhetoric.Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A. TESOL – Columbia University Teachers College, NYC
  • B. A. French – The University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Career Highlights:

I consider myself a servant leader, and it is in that spirit that I share some of my life as a teacher. It was my great pleasure to serve teachers, students and families as president and a board member of the Washington Association for the Education of Speakers of Other Languages (WAESOL, TESOL Affiliate). I am now a professor of English at Eastern Washington University, where I have been teaching Composition for Multilingual Writers, linguistics, literature, TESOL, and Gender Studies. It was my good fortune to have had the opportunity to teach ESL at the University of Wyoming, Boise State, Osaka University and Harvard and in the NYC and Boise public school systems.

Humbly, it was much to my surprise while at EWU that I was awarded Professor of the Year, EWU Pride Center Allies Award & Training Certificate, the Lavender Graduation Ally Appreciation Award, Faculty Diversity Week Award, EWU Faculty Service Merit Award for seven consecutive years, Faculty of the Year: Service Award, EWU Teaching Merit Award for eight years and a Regional Women in Leadership Finalist three times. Through some twist of fate, my work has appeared in the WAESOL Educator, WAESOL Quarterly and WAESOL Newsletter, and in national and international English, literature and modern language journals. I am most proud to say that many of these articles were co-authored with students and alumni from all over the world.

As MA: TESL program director, I chaired more than 70 theses, such as this one on Digital Commons (https://dc.ewu.edu/theses/484). Earlier in my career, it was my pleasure to be asked to create a magnet ELL school at East Junior High School in Boise and another at PS 112 in Queens. As WAESOL president, I had the honor of serving as a local host for the International TESOL Convention in Seattle, which drew 7,000 attendees from all over the world. As WAESOL vice president, I proposed The Sally Wellman Teaching Award in the early 2000's to honor my colleague who started the undergraduate EWU TESL options and died young before her work was done. I co-sponsor the award with WAESOL every year. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, I moved the Master of Arts: TESL Emphasis to Education and am now collaborating with the education faculty and academic partners to launch the TESOL Master of Education online option in the fall of 2021.

  • In which online degree program do you teach?

    Master of Education – TESOL

    Graduate Certificate – ELL

  • Links to share:


  • In what ways do you connect with online students?

    We view and respond to YouTube videos, TED Talks, lectures and readings. I post regular announcements on Canvas and use email to check in with students. I also write extensive responses to students' reflections, research and lessons in Canvas comments and recorded feedback. We do dialogue journals in which we write back and forth in Assignment Comments. Further, Zoom conferences are arranged to discuss their projects, and I hold regular and extended Zoom office hours to accommodate work schedules and geographical locations—nationally and internationally. As a writer and researcher, I write with my students, and we discuss our work in conferences. Additionally, I let them know about upcoming professional conferences and calls for papers. I also invite them to local festivals and cultural events, some of which are virtual and online for free! Sometimes students and I present together—virtually or in person. When they graduate, I continue to stay in touch as best I can.

  • What do you want your students to take away from class?

    I want my students to take away a feeling of belonging that transcends time and place. Together, we will create a community of learners based on what Bell Hooks calls "a pedagogy of hope." We will share our understanding of how languages work across cultures locally, nationally and internationally and explore how languages influence our identities and world views.

  • What is the value of an advanced degree in today’s work environment?

    An advanced degree in TESOL opens doors in all parts of the world, whether your goal is to teach English to young children in Yemen or seniors in a culture center in Osaka (as I did), to corporate executives at SONY, to immigrants preparing for the Citizenship Exam, or to college freshmen in the United States. At the same time, the TESOL degree prepares you for a doctoral program or a government job in the State Department or the Defense Language Institute. Or you may want to be a teacher educator in the Peace Corps, a materials developer with UNICEF or a family literacy coach with World Relief. There are so many possibilities I cannot list them all here!

  • What advice would you give to your online students?

    You be you! Take time to enter the virtual classroom and be present from afar. Be with us. Be all in. Find your joy and bring it to your classroom every day—pay it forward for your students, their families, your colleagues and your community. Turn to others when you need help and return the favor when you can.

  • Why did you start teaching?

    My mother and great-grandma Maggie, who raised my mother, were my first teachers. They taught me to read, write and sing, but most importantly, they taught me to share my gifts to help others and encouraged me to be a teacher. This sharing is what I’ve done both inside and outside of my classroom. Instead of bedtime stories, Mother often recited long poems by heart—Longfellow’s “The Children’s Hour,” “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” and “Casey at the Bat,” to name a few. Soon, we were reciting them with her as we drifted off to sleep. From a one-room country school through the doctoral program, I have been guided and coached by these two women. What I am today I owe to them.

  • What is the one book you think everyone should read?

    Everyone should read “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte to understand the plight of the orphan who became a teacher, an artist and a “mensch”—a person of integrity and honor. In Jane, we learn to forgive others, to honor the mentally ill, to advocate for the underdog and to give back all we can if and when we happen to make it in this world.

  • What do you do when you need a laugh?

    I call my big sister in Nebraska. Just hearing her voice—her dry and caustic wit—cheers me beyond words and makes me laugh. Thank you, sister!

  • Tell us something interesting about yourself that your students may not know.

    I had the good fortune of being taught by three of my mother's teachers: Miss Howell, Miss Smith, and Miss Foster, who became Mrs. Pike once female teachers were allowed to marry in Nebraska! I dedicated my dissertation to Miss Howell, who taught me to read, write, listen and speak from my heart. Miss Smith taught me to sing, and Mrs. Pike taught me to read history and to go beyond the master narratives in the textbooks and figure out who Helen Keller really was, how Ann Frank survived in hiding and what Japanese Americans' internment meant to them as described in their oral histories.

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