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Maria (Mia) Thomas-Ruzic

Senior Instructor, Linguistically Diverse Education

My story:

While growing up, home was wherever my family was. We moved every three or four years between different places in Europe and the US. It was some time during my first years of school in New York that I learned that my brothers and I were known as army brats and that our mom was a war bride.

My father was from New York City, the product of second and third-generation immigrants-- Irish on his mother's side, and (mostly) Welsh on his father's. As a US army medical officer stationed in 1946 outside Udine, Italy - the (then) relatively quiet provincial capital of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region--my father met my mother and their love story began. Never having traveled farther than to Venice (some 100 kilometers from Udine) by train, my mother soon found herself heading to exotic destinations in Italy such as Rome and the Dolomite Mountains, and making homes across the Alps, in Germany: Nuremburg, Munich and Heidelberg - then trans-Atlantically, in New Jersey. My older brother and I were born in Germany, and our younger siblings were born in New York and in France. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, we spent long Italian-style summer vacations at a beach town on the Adriatic, near Udine, with our grandmother. Over the summer there would be a sprinkling of visits from assorted uncles and aunties and cousins, who would spend a Sunday with us, or a week, or a month. Sometimes I would go away to stay with one of them - in the mountains or other cities (Bologna) - or to summer camp (once in the Alps, near Geneva). The bi-cultural and bi-continental childhoods my brothers and I had were rich, and full of wonder and adventures; they weren't without challenges, of course.

I attended schools in Udine, New York (Long Island), France (Chateauroux) and in Aurora, Colorado; also Glasgow, Montana and Wiesbaden, Germany -nine schools in all, counting the French lycée I attended for half days in 4th and 5th grade. Upon graduating from high school, and not wanting to be too far away from my family, I began my university studies at the University of Maryland branch in Munich, transferring to CU Boulder in 1971 as an anthropology major. Since this time, I've called Colorado home, maintaining residence in the state but taking advantages of opportunities to live and teach abroad for up to three years at a time - viz. in Cameroon, West Africa; Rome and Genova, Italy; Bosnia and Croatia; Puebla, Mexico.

I think I have felt at home everywhere I have lived. And I believe that these many places and people continue to figure in my life in important ways - both subtle and explicit.

My work and interests

I'm intrigued with ways in which children and adults negotiate, adapt to, and learn in the different linguistic, cultural, educational, material, etc. settings in which they find themselves, including classrooms and schools as well as work and leisure settings - whether in one's own local neighborhood or in a new country. There is no doubt that this overarching interest has been shaped by my experiences growing up.

I earned my graduate degrees from the University of Colorado (Linguistics. MA,1981; PhD, 1998). I taught English as a foreign or second language from 1973 to 1998 -- in secondary school, post-secondary institutes, adult education, and university settings, and I have worked in language teacher education for the past 25 years.

I have been on the faculty at UCD since 1998, and I currently divide my instructorship equally between Linguistically Diverse Education (LDE) in the School of Education and Human Development, and the Linguistics Department at CU-Boulder, where I coordinate a small professional TESOL emphasis program focused on the teaching of ESL or EFL adults. In my work I try to help teachers to make discoveries about language and languages - English as well as other language(s) that they and their students use in and out of school - and to develop teaching methods and materials for English language learning that support language awareness and learning by emerging English bilinguals.

My students at University of Colorado Denver:

I appreciate the different and particular experiences, perspectives, goals and challenges that students bring to my classes and to their graduate studies, and I encourage students to make their own connections to the course content and projects. Multiple perspectives benefit everyone in the class - not only with regard to the course materials, but on matters of professional and personal choices, conflict and interests.

Classes I teach at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education & Human Development:

LLC (Language, Literacy & Culture) courses, including:

  • LLC 5030: Language & Literacy Acquisition, Part 1
  • LLC 5035: Language & Literacy Acquisition, Part 2
  • LLC 5070: Linguistic Analysis of English
  • LLC 5150: Culture of the Classroom
  • LLC 5826: Language Teaching Lab in Puebla, Mexico
  • LLC 6912: Practicum in Linguistically Diverse Education

My research interests:

  • Language and interaction and language learning
  • Language awareness
  • Teacher learning - e.g., through action research, coaching, and through exchange experiences (especially between Mexico and the US)

My hobbies:

Travel, choral singing and piano, cooking, hiking, reading; spending time with my extended family. My granddaughter, nieces and nephews - all impressive young people - are a particularly wonderful source of inspiration and joy.

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