AmeriCorps Member

Sean Gilligan

ESL Instructor

LEAF Program

  1. Sean GilliganWhy were you interested in returning to our AmeriCorps program for a 2nd year?
    The clients I serve here at LEAF are determined, inspiring, funny, challenging, wise, wildly intelligent, and always brimming with gratitude. How many folks get to say that about the people they work with?
  1. What continues to motivate you as an ESL Instructor?
    What continues to motivate me is a grateful smile, a handshake, good stories and better jokes, the playful use of a new word, success, failure, and the thousand other tiny sentiments and gestures that do the work of knotting us all together, of pressing back against the loneliness. 
  1. What is one student story or relationship that has been especially meaningful for you?
    It feels like an injustice to pick just one, but I will say that the relationships which have been the most meaningful to me here have been the ones that started when neither of us, me nor the student, could speak a word to each other. From scratch, so to speak. I’ve found that, no matter how far their English comes, no matter how many facts I collect about their life, there’s nothing about who they are as human beings I didn’t already know, but too easily forgot.  
  1. What do you hope to give to the students you serve?
    I hope to give my students one small piece of a tool they need to access life here in American and begin the process of building a safe, secure, optimistic future for their family so that, ultimately, they can begin the work of healing themselves.
  1. How have you grown or been impacted during your service?
    Every new person I’ve met here has forced me to reconsider my own place in our world, a world that, thanks to my students, has and is expanding at an enormous rate. I keep relearning just how far any one of us is from the center. 
  1. What are you most proud of in your service?
    I’m most proud of having helped to create a space, a classroom, where people can come together and, even if it’s just for a couple hours, experience English as something to be enjoyed instead of something to be struggled against. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to help good people laugh, smile, and be understood during some of our country’s, our planet’s, most painful years.

Bonus questions!

  1. Where would you most like to travel to?
    The National Palace Museum in Taiwan. 
  1. What is your favorite holiday and why?
    Deer Season in Wisconsin. If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand. 
  1. If you could go back in time, what year or period would you travel to and why?
    I always fantasize about seeing North America as it was pre-European contact. What must it have felt like to see those herds of bison, a Lake Michigan teeming with pre-historic sturgeon? Or to have walked acres and acres of white pine forest filled with elk, mink, moose, grouse, lynx, and countless other species? What must it have felt like to hear a truly wild wolf? No one will ever know again.
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