I can remember distinctly the days when I noticed my love of culture and language starting to grow. Over junior high school lunches we would talk about our heritage and genealogy. Although many of my ancestors had come to the United States long enough ago to leave us without much knowledge of their background, I did know that my great-grandfather came to this country when he was nine all alone on a ship from Italy. Upon arrival Nicolantonio Pescatore became Nicholas Preston and I have mourned the loss of that ancestral language and culture since I learned of his existence. From those days on, I thought of myself as much Italian as American.
A new interest in language and culture began in high school when my family had an exchange student from Germany stay with us. He taught me German songs, words, and culture. Through that experience, I was later able to visit Germany and have my first visit to a different country not only as a tourist, but as an "insider" staying with a German family and meeting German kids my age. I spent the Y2K New Year in Leipzig, Germany not really knowing if the computers would all hold out to get me on my flight back home.
In college, my mom had the good fortune to notice a work study job in the Intensive English Program at Saint Louis University, where I attended for my undergraduate degree. I fell in love with the work there - sharing my life, my culture, and my language with others while at the same time learning about their own cultures and languages. This was in the years just before, during, and after 9/11. It became so apparent in that time of the importance of this kind of work. How it was important for us all to be mutually sharing and understanding of our different cultures. So I decided I wanted to be an ESL teacher for life, not just as a work study job.
Also, during college, I began taking Italian classes and along with my new majors of English and International Studies, I needed to complete a study abroad program. I was the first Preston to return to the "homeland" and so happy to be learning more about part of what I had felt was my identity for so long. As you may imagine, learning Italian in a classroom in St. Louis, Missouri, was not quite the same as trying to use it and speak it in Rapallo, Italy. But I was not afraid to try! Even when I was often mistaken as a German tourist, I continued to press on and use my Italian out and about in Italy. I even managed a few excursions on my own. I was both overjoyed and saddened that on the bus ride back to the airport upon leaving, I noticed that I was listening to the radio and understood what was being said. I finally understood Italian, but my time in Italy was done!
Since I already knew I wanted to be an ESL instructor, I went right away to graduate school and had the extreme good fortune of studying at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (now Middlebury Institute of International Studies). It was amazing to be in such a small school with such a high number of international students. One of my roommates was from Mongolia, classmates had been everywhere from Russia to Romania to Jamaica to Japan. I was surrounded by people who loved language and culture, and were all working for a better world. It was the most exciting time in my life! The professors there differed in their philosophies, but that only pushed us all even harder to become the best that we could be. It was an humbling experience to be treated as a colleague and not just a student by some of the greatest minds of our field.
Coincidentally, right before moving to Monterey, CA for graduate school, I met my (future) husband in Missouri. He is from Mexico and the move to California actually provided me with the chance to start my Spanish language acquisition as I listened to radio and TV in Spanish while writing papers. Slowly I started learning Spanish word by word through what I was picking up. After graduating with my MATESOL, I suggested that we move to Mexico for a while so that I could fully learn Spanish and know more about his culture. I taught English for 4 years in Mexico before moving back to the United States and Michigan State University.
The other pages of this website will give you details about my professional experience, but my profession is so intricately entwined with who I am as a person, that I could not help, but give you this small glimpse of my life as well!