Why were you interested in joining our AmeriCorps program at AHS? I had taught ESL in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher for 3 years and was interested in gaining more experience as a lead teacher before going to grad school for TESOL. I was also very interested in serving the immigrant and refugee populations in my community. The LEAF Program has given me both of those opportunities and so much more.
What motivates you as an ESL Instructor? Of course, my students! I teach Basic Literacy, so many of my students are coming into the program with little to no experience in English and/or education in their home countries. It’s incredible to watch their English skills grow in a relatively short amount of time, from only using a small handful of words to gaining confidence to hold conversations!
What’s your favorite thing about living in Chicago? This is a hard question because I’ve lived in the suburbs my whole life, so I feel like I take a lot of what Chicagoland has to offer for granted… however, when I lived abroad I missed having access to unique cultural cuisines – especially Polish! I really missed Paczki Day and I was shocked when none of my American coworkers there even knew what a paczki was!
If you could describe your AmeriCorps experience so far in one word or phrase, what would it be? Humbling
What impact do you hope to make in your service? I can only hope that I can motivate my students to continue studying English and eventually using it to achieve their goals here in the U.S. – whether that be employment, going to school, becoming a citizen, or even just helping their kids with homework.
What impact do the students you serve have on you? They’ve really inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and overcome socially uncomfortable situations with confidence. I love watching friendships between speakers of different native languages form and flourish in the classroom and out of it. Obviously their communication isn’t always perfect, but they always manage to find ways to connect!
What’s an AmeriCorps memory you’ll hold onto? We just had our annual International Day party and it was really moving to see how passionate our students are about sharing their cultures with the community. I learned about and tried delicious Somali cuisine, tried on a traditional Afghani dress, and joined a Kyrgyz dance circle! All in the same building and all of those things were firsts for me – definitely an unforgettable experience.
What are you most proud of so far in your service? The classroom culture I’ve built with students. With their help, I’ve been able to make my classes a safe space where they can share their cultures and interests and ask questions and make mistakes freely. I’m really proud of the atmosphere we’ve created together!
Where do you see yourself post-AmeriCorps? I’m going on to receive my Master of Education and teaching licensure in TESOL, so definitely in the classroom again, but this time in a K-12 setting. I’m also really interested in learning more about curriculum development.
If you could master one skill you don’t have right now, what would it be? Japanese Kanji (Chinese characters). There are over 2000 commonly used characters, so learning just those takes so much time and effort. Even when I lived in Japan, I never quite managed to get it down…
Where would you most like to travel to? We’ve had a huge influx of Kyrgyz students lately who are always so excited to share their culture. They’ve definitely inspired me to visit Kyrgyzstan and other countries in Central Asia.
If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Thai yellow curry.
Founded in 1978, AHS is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping people become healthy, educated and employed. We serve all who seek our help, with special expertise in the challenges facing refugees, immigrants and other underserved communities in the greater Chicago area.
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