The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

James Robinson

Second Advisor

Michael Schwartz

Third Advisor

James Heiman

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

native, nonnative, language identity, perceptions, TESOL, graduate teaching assistants


Historically, the native and nonnative speaker dichotomy has been very limiting and marginalizing to an estimated 1 billion nonnative English speakers worldwide. Furthermore, the voices of these nonnative English speakers, particularly those that are teachers (NNESTs) have long been absent from empirical research and publications. Over the past two decades, there has been a slow shift, and more focus is being given to this topic. This ethnographic, qualitative study aimed to provide a platform for NNESTs by recruiting 10 graduate teaching assistants in a TESOL program at a Midwestern University. These participants, who hailed from 5 different continents, were interviewed about their self-perceptions of their identities, successes, challenges, and their views on the native/nonnative divide. The findings of this study closely mirrored prior studies in terms of views on the advantages and disadvantages of NESTs/NNESTs. Additionally, the real and lasting impact of (mis)labeling and categorizing people by their ‘native’ or ‘nonnative’ status is revealed. The results of this study are presented such that they can be useful for future research on NESTs/NNESTs, especially those utilizing the lens of meaningful firsthand accounts, stories, and narratives.