James Byrd

I originally came to know Spanish by serving a two-year mission for a church in Barcelona, Spain. That experience greatly opened my mind to the view points of others, and it led to a great appreciation of other cultures. Upon returning home I worked for a couple of years as an ironworker and cement finisher to help my family. Once I was free of my obligations I planned to go to college, but I received a phone call from a friend in Spain and he convinced me to spend that summer holiday in Spain. Shortly after arriving, my friend introduced me to "one of his friends" and, unbeknownst to me, our conversation was actually part of an informal job interview. Apparently things were going quite well because after about 30 minutes I was presented with a written test and later offered a job as an ESL teacher in a private language academy.

I planned to stay in Spain teaching English for one year; however, I met a young biology student whom I found to be fascinating and I married her so that she couldn’t get away. To make a long story short, I ended up staying in Spain for ten years. During that time I attended Spain’s Escuela Oficial de Idiomas where I obtained a five-year diploma for the teaching of English language. Upon returning to the U.S., I attended Texas A&M University and I graduated summa cum laude, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish language and literature with 18 hours of business. Later I obtained a master’s degree in Spanish right here at NIU.

I have also taught in the public school system, where I taught Spanish to native-speaker classes in Texas, and I have also been a bilingual social studies and science teacher here in Illinois. I am an Eagle Scout, and I also served in the Marine Corps Reserve. I used to be an avid climber but take things easy now, tending to my plants, playing with my miniature schnauzers and trying to get my children to fly from the coop.

My life did not go in the direction I originally intended, but it has been a great adventure. More importantly, I have found that all knowledge I have picked up along the way has been useful, and I try to emphasize this fact in all of my classes.

How many of you as students know people who work in a field that seems different than the one that they studied? I guarantee you that all of the efforts that you put into college, and specifically into learning Spanish language, will have multiple payoffs long into your future!

James Byrd
Office: WH 313


M.A., Northern Illinois University, Spanish
B.A., Texas A&M, Spanish Language and Literature
English Teaching Diploma, Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (Spain)

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World Languages and Cultures
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