My grandparents actually made me want to teach language. They immigrated in the early 1900’s. My mother was born in the US, but her first language was German. German was all that was spoken at home. My mom’s cousin helped her learn English. When she started at the one-room schoolhouse, they knew she was an immigrant because of her last name. This was around the time of WWI. People didn’t like Germans very much. The teacher told my mother she had to put her head down on her desk when the kids said the Pledge of Allegiance. For the rest of her life, she never got over that.
I love to travel and I wanted to improve my Spanish. So one Sunday, I attended a church service nearby that was celebrating the Festival of the Virgin of San Guadalupe. The church was filled with Latinos. I asked the pastor if they had English classes at that location. He said they used to, but they’d stopped.
A long time ago, I wanted to be a language teacher, but life got in the way. And I thought, maybe I could help these people with English. The pastor gave me no chance to change my mind. All of a sudden I had a bunch of students–uh oh.
A lady at church suggested I get help with books for students from PRC and I couldn’t believe it–it worked!
My first class had 12 students. Some of them needed other teachers, I was the connector. They needed citizenship or GED. I helped them find what they needed. I also recruited a couple friends to help tutor.
I wish my students could to live in the US without so much fear and discrimination. I wish they could have more opportunities, like my grandparents had. They should be allowed to become citizens. I don’t care how they came here. If they can pass the test, let them become citizens. It’s a hard test!
I’ll always remember my first student. She was from Mexico. She wanted a better life for her family. She worked in a kitchen washing dishes. And she wanted to learn English so that she could get a better job and earn a bit more money as a waitress. She came to class every week with a big smile, all dressed up, had her homework in hand. We became friends. I’ve been invited to students’ homes a few times. I was really honored. Recently, a student invited me over for a lesson on how to make tamales. They help me improve my Spanish too.
Honestly, I get more than I give.