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ELI Faculty & Staff

(l-r) Ned Garlington, Usama Al-Saffar, Em Chitty, Josh McGuirk, Michelle McGuirk, Amanda Dascomb, Yesenia Ensminger, Golshan Dehkordi, Doug Terry

Em Turner Chitty, Interim Director

Em Turner Chitty is the Interim Director of ELI and has taught English language, literature, and composition for over 35 years. “Helping students prepare to realize their dreams and ambitions is my primary goal,” she says. She has taught English in Tennessee, Virginia, Switzerland, and Italy, and is the author of How We Really Talk: Using Phrasal Verbs in English and Spelling and Sound. She holds master’s degrees in English literature and public administration, speaks Italian and French, and is learning Spanish. 

What do you enjoy most about working at ELI?

Helping students follow their paths to success.

What advice do you give to new ELI students?

Surround yourself with English. Watch movies, find friends, read books, join clubs. Talk to yourself in English as you walk down the street! Use every opportunity to grow a “new brain” in your new language.

What is your favorite spot on campus?

The UT Gardens. From a few plants 20 years ago, the Gardens have developed into a magical place to walk and enjoy hundreds of species of flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees.

What is something you love about Knoxville?

The exciting new shops and activities in downtown Knoxville.

What are a few of your favorite books?

Composing a Life, The 11 Nations of the United States, Start Where You Are 

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I enjoy making music; I play violin and guitar when I can; and enjoy gardening when the weather is warm. I also enjoy bicycling on Knoxville’s many greenways and road trips! I love road trips!


Education

MPA, Public Administration, emphasis economic development 2011

Lyndhurst Teaching Fellowship, 1986

MA, English literature, specialty in English as a Second Language, 1981

BA, Comparative Literature in French and Latin, 1977

Contact Information: 

Email: echitty@utk.edu

Doug Terry, Teaching Associate

Doug Terry, MA TESOL Education, is a teaching associate at ELI. Deeply interested in helping UT become a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus, he also coordinates the Academy for Global Scholars in addition to his teaching work at ELI. The Academy helps first-generation college students—students who are the first in their families to attend college—travel abroad and see the world. Before joining ELI, he worked with Knox County Schools and Pellissippi State Community College’s Adult Education program.

What do you enjoy most about working at ELI?

I always say that I’m so blessed to have the best job in the world because I get to work with the best people in the world – our students! Whether they are at a basic, intermediate, or advanced level, I’m continually impressed by how much our students teach me through sharing their life experiences and cultures. Additionally, I’m always in awe of their courage and resilience in taking on the challenge of advancing their English language skills.

What advice do you give to new ELI students?

I encourage our students not to be shy. I tell them to let any of us faculty or staff know how we can be of service to them—we can always do our very best to help! In terms of language learning, I let students know that learning a language is not a linear process, where every day you can obviously tell that you are improving. Instead, I tell them to think of their English language development as learning to incorporate a healthy habit.  Some days may seem to be more of a struggle than others, but over time, you can truly see growth.

What is your favorite spot on campus?

I love The Hill, where Ayres Hall, with its clock tower, looks down on a lush green hill that slopes downward to Cumberland Avenue. This is the spot where I asked my wife to marry me.

What is something you love about Knoxville?

I love living in a small city that has access to so many wonderful places to go hiking and experience the outdoors! We’re very close to the Smokies, various scenic state parks, and, of course, Ijams, our urban wilderness!

What are a few of your favorite books?

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, and the Harry Potter series.

What are some TV shows you enjoy?

Most of my favorite shows are older ones such as Parks and Recreation, The Office, and early seasons of American Idol.

Do you have a podcast recommendation?

Conan O’ Brien Needs a Friend is a good choice if you’re looking for something funny, O’Brien, the host, interviews famous people. Another is Fresh Air if you’re looking to expand your knowledge of politics, entertainment, or other aspects of U.S. culture.


Education

Doug Terry earned his MS in ESL Education from the University of Tennessee in 2003 and has been teaching international students for almost 20 years. Terry also earned his B.S. in Psychology from the University of Florida in 1995.

Contact Information: 

Email: dterry1@utk.edu

Joseph Edward Garlington, Instructor

“I grew up and went to high school in Knoxville, went to UTK for BS in Communications/Advertising. Later got a Masters in Teaching from Carson Newman I have four grown children. I’ve lived abroad much of my life. I have lived and taught for many years in Spain, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia. I enjoy languages and speak Spanish, French and Moroccan Arabic.

My wife and I enjoy being back in East Tennessee, where we can enjoy being with family and the beautiful mountains and lakes of the area.”

What do you like to be called?

“Ned”

Where are you from?

“Knoxville, Tennessee”

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?

“Morocco”

How do you enjoy spending a day off?

“Having a leisurely breakfast.”

Favorite food or snack?

“A good steak and potato”

Hobbies?

“Hiking, fishing, and reading.”


Education

MA of Teaching, Carson Newman University

BS Communications/Advertising, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Contact Information: 

Email: jgarlin1@utk.edu

Amanda Dascomb, Instructor

Where are you from?

I am from Everett, WA (near Seattle).  

Did you study abroad in college?

I studied for a semester at a language school in Grenoble, France during my undergraduate studies. 

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?

I had the opportunity to visit the Galápagos for work. What amazing wildlife!  

How do you enjoy spending a day off?

An ideal day begins with an open water swim in the Tennessee River, then taking my two boys hiking in South Knoxville and ending the day at a brewery or food truck park.  

Favorite food or snack?

Baked goods and tea.  

Hobbies?

Reading, paddleboarding, open water swimming, hiking, camping, and baking.  


Education

B.A/ M.A French and Francophone Studies, University of Florida (Go Gators!) 

Ph.D. Education, University of Tennessee, Knoxville 

Contact Information: 

Email: adascomb@utk.edu

Joshua McGuirk, Instructor

Where are you from?

I am from Pennsylvania, but have lived in many different places.

Did you study abroad in college?

I got certified to teach English as a Second Language in Phuket, Thailand, but that was long after I had graduated from college.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?

Bali, Indonesia was my favorite place to visit. I also enjoyed Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. In the United States I loved visiting Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia.

How do you enjoy spending a day off?

I enjoy hiking, riding bikes, singing karaoke, taking road trips and enjoying the outdoors with my wife and our dog.

Favorite food or snack?

I love all foods, but my favorite two are Indian food and Thai food.

Hobbies?

I enjoy outdoor activities, music (making it, listening to it and even just talking about it) and reading old science fiction books.


Education

B.S. in Health Education, Edinburgh University of Pennsylvania

TESOL/TEFL Certification, TEFL International, TEFL Campus – Phuket, Thailand

Contact Information: 

Email: jmcguirk@utk.edu

Yesenia Ensminger, Instructor

For 15+ years, Yesenia has taught English to adults of diverse backgrounds. Some of her professional experience includes curriculum and material development, as well as training other instructors on how to develop materials of their own.

She has lived abroad, traveled extensively, and studied 12 languages. Her work is concerned with the intersection of culture, learning, and psychology, and she brings a passionate microscope to language and identity.

Where are you from?

The Bronx, New York City.

Did you study abroad in college?

I spent a summer studying Italian Cinema and Literature on the Adriatic coast in Pescara, Italia.

What’s the most interesting place you’ve visited?

Hmm…MOST interesting?? Being raised bilingual, I appreciate the distinct bilingualism of Quebec, Canada, and Hong Kong.

How do you enjoy spending a day off?

Discovering new places on foot (basically walking all day), then going home to devour something funny.

Favorite food or snack?

Wake me up to a respectable cappuccino and croissant! I could eat Cantonese, and Korean food every day.

Hobbies?

Animal watching, cooking, pet sitting, reading anything non-fiction, searching for new music and listening to old goodies, watching comedies and sitcoms…to name a few.

What do you enjoy most about working at ELI?

Getting to meet new people all the time.

What advice would you give to new ELI students?

Come to class on time, give effort both during and outside of class, and learn to play with the language.

What is something you love about Knoxville?

How small and peaceful it is. Oh, and the groundhogs!

What are a few of your favorite books?

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain, A Very Punchable Face by Colin Jost, 12 Rules for Life and Beyond Order by Jordan Peterson


Education

B.A. Italian Language and Civilization, & Film Studies, CUNY Hunter College

CELTA—Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, University of Cambridge

Certified Intercultural Training Practitioner—Crossing Cultures with Competence (CCwC), The Interchange Institute

Yesenia EnsmingerContact Information: 

Email: yensming@utk.edu