The U.S. Department of State announced the selection of Erin Mikulec of Illinois State University for an English language specialist virtual project with the Congreso Internacional de Formadores en la Enseñanza de Lenguas in Mexico at Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla. Mikulec is part of a select group, as her project is one of approximately 200 that the English Language Specialist Program supports each year. 

As an English language specialist with CIFEL, Mikulec delivered a plenary address focused on developing rapport with language learners in online environments. She also led a workshop where participants learned to utilize literacy strategies for teaching English with videos. Mikulec’s work contributed to the professional development of K–12 English teachers and teacher educators who attended the Congreso. This year’s CIFEL hosted participants from across Mexico as well as Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador.

Mikulec is a professor of secondary education and the associate director of the School of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University. She holds a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in Foreign Language Education and TESOL from Purdue University. In 2014, Mikulec was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Helsinki in Finland, where she studied education and taught English in K–12 schools. In 2017, she was a visiting professor of academic English at Akita International University in Japan and a visiting professor of TESOL at Quality Leadership University in Panama. Mikulec also travels to Vietnam where she serves as a guest lecturer at Can Tho University and Hue College of Foreign Languages.

The English Language Specialist Program is the premier opportunity for leaders in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) to enact meaningful and sustainable changes in the way that English is taught abroad, and is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) with funding provided by the U.S. government. In 2021, the English Language Specialist Program celebrates its 30th anniversary. Since 1991, over 800 English language specialists—representing the best of America’s educators from all 50 states—have encouraged critical thought and erudition, celebrated their cultural diversity, and showcased their professional and civic engagement strategies to millions of educators and students to millions of educators and students through in-country, virtual, or mixed projects.

During their projects, English language specialists may conduct intensive teacher training, advise ministries of education, or participate in high-level educational consultations, and offer plenary presentations at regional, national, or international TESOL conferences. These projects are challenging and those selected represent the best of the U.S. TESOL community. In return, the program provides professional development opportunities to help participants experience different cultures and build skills that can greatly enhance their TESOL careers at home.

English language specialists are counted among the more than 50,000 individuals participating in U.S. Department of State exchange programs each year. The specialist program is administered by the Center for Intercultural Education and Development at Georgetown University. For further information about the English Language Specialist Program or the U.S. Department of State, visit