PERSONAL EXPERIENCES

“Learn a new language and get a new soul.” ~Czech Proverb
I currently teach 8th grade English at a middle school in a predominately immigrant neighborhood in Las Vegas, Nevada. My path to this vocation started long ago.

When I was just 13 years old, my family moved to Saudi Arabia where I attended an American school with a 50 percent international student population. At 15 years old, we moved to Australia where I attended an Australian public school. At 16, I returned to the United States, strangely somewhat of a foreigner to my own country. At 17, I became an exchange student to Germany where I devolved into a mute and emerged 10 months later with a new voice. At 18, I attended a public university in the U.S. My mind was spinning. Who was I? Where was I going? Where did I belong? At 22, I studied Spanish in Costa Rica reshaping again the articulation of my mouth and mind. Upon my return to the U.S., my soul had gone through three births, a piece of my heart belonging to five countries, yet I was perhaps more aware of my “American-ness” than most of my compatriots.


In 1997, just before I went to Costa Rica, the citizens of California banned bilingual education in public schools. My experiences caused me to see the U.S. political debate over teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) from an uncommon perspective, and an enlightening linguistics course in my last semester of undergraduate studies haunted me with questions for years afterward. What was the best way to teach English language learners (ELLs)? Were ELLs really an undue burden on public education systems? Did specialized classes really speed their acquisition of English or was English language immersion the best course? Which was more humane?

So eventually, I went back to school to answer these lingering questions and insert myself into the debate. After two years, I have armed myself with the knowledge and skills to advocate for English language learners not only as their teacher but also as their defender against misconceptions that exist in educational and public spheres.