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Instructor Spotlight: Luis Falquez|Identity, Inc

3 weeks 3 days 19 hours 14 min ago

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what has inspired you to be a teacher?
I am an ESL teacher at Identity Inc., Gaithersburg, MD. I am always learning how to teach successfully to young or adult Latinos people English as a second language to have more opportunities here in the United States of America.   

What are the biggest challenges you face as an ESOL teacher?
The biggest challenge has been to set an engagement of all my students, with different occupations, different life routine schedules, different learning styles, and different English levels. But the pathway has been incredibly fantastic while I am watching the progress of my students.

What has teaching remotely during a global pandemic taught you?
Conveying motivation, persistence, and keeping creativity to always bring the best ESL resources to continue having the best English Language Learning process acquisition.

What advice would you give to a new ESOL teacher or volunteer?
Always being prepared with different English Language Learning Resources to make more fun the acquisition of English as a second language, and in that way to make the proper differentiation of the students according to their interests and likes.

What have been your favorite pastimes during COVID-19?
I love reading about remote jobs, and remote learning, because even if We like it or not is now part of our present, and definitely part of our future. 

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding thing about my job is to see hope in my student's lives. See how they continue practicing and coming to the virtual classes, no matter the situations that they can be facing personally or in other areas. 

What is something you learned about your students during this remote teaching period?
I have learned their determination to conquer and achieve their goals without limits, I have learned how to be a hero like them, and that is what they are: [HEROES]. Because only heroes can continue reaching goals and success with the wind against them.
 

CLG a MCAEL Bridge

2 months 3 weeks 6 days 19 hours ago

MCAEL is working with local organizations to create Community Learning Groups (CLGs), learning spaces that connect learners and community members to ESOL (sometimes for the first time) in their communities. An important part of MCAEL’s Racial Equity Strategic Plan, the CLG program focuses on two objectives: 1) helping more adults in East County and other areas with fewer English classes to find a pathway to improving their English skills, and 2) increasing the number and diversity of trained adult ESOL instructors.  

The 9-week CLG ESOL class model builds on existing social ties, working with key community leaders to introduce ESOL to learners through a trusted point of contact. Participants meet at a convenient place (or online) and time that best suits the group. At the end of the introductory class, each participant goes through a “case-management” process and are referred to existing community-based classes where they can continue their learning, based on their individual needs and circumstances. 

In the past 5 months, MCAEL has piloted two CLG classes, partnering with Identity, Inc. (10-week class, ran February – March) and Kings and Priests Court International Ministries – City of Light Helping Hands (9-week class, ran April – June). Lessons learned from these two pilots about the curriculum, pace and length of class are invaluable, and have been incorporated into plans for the next CLG classes to start in July. In post-class surveys, participants reported an increase in confidence using English, and the majority have enrolled in another class to continue their study.  

In May 2021, with the help of East County-based organizations, MCAEL recruited and selected individuals from local immigrant communities to train as CLG instructors. Topics in the custom 4-week (16-hour) training program offered in May/June included: adult learning theory and principles; learner-centered teaching techniques; and online learning/teaching. Six participants successfully completed the course and will teach CLG classes to take place this summer; MCAEL will provide them with information on further TESOL training and career advice. Congratulations to Abebech Tebeje, Abiodun Olatunji, Clara Ekeke, Jocelyn Matenje, Mariame Koita, and Soffie Ceesay!

The CLG’s are a bridge to the ESOL network in Montgomery County that help expand access for learners where programming is not readily available and training for community members to teach adult ESOL, especially those that are representative of their communities. These groups will break barriers to learning by warmly handing-off new learners to local organizations, while opening new opportunities for community involvement.

Instructor Spotlight: Austin Lee|Washington New Covenant Fellowship Church

5 months 19 hours 14 min 55 sec ago

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what has inspired you to be a teacher?
I am a volunteer ESL teacher through New Covenant Fellowship Church in Germantown, MD.  Growing up, I enjoyed learning different languages in school and at home.  I found that languages are invaluable tools to draw experiences, opportunities, history, and thought from the wells of country, culture, and people.  As such, I was inspired to help students learn English so that they too can use language to understand others and express themselves.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an ESOL teacher?
The biggest challenge has been remote learning during the pandemic. Attendance gets spotty, and technological literacy tends to be another barrier at the lower levels, adding a layer of difficulty for pacing and collaboration.

What has teaching remotely during a global pandemic taught you?
Teaching through a global pandemic has taught me how to tailor ESL classes to a virtual classroom. This includes making use of Zoom's many features for online learning, as well as how to use technology to augment learning as opposed to letting technological complexity diminish English language content.

What advice would you give to a new ESOL teacher or volunteer?
I found that the more relationships a student builds in class, the more consistently they come out.  Rather than a hub and spoke relationship model between teacher and student, it's beneficial to foster environments where students get to know other students beyond names. Setting aside some class time for casual conversations also helps build real-world English speaking skills as well as stronger class bonds. Above all, pray for the students.

What have been your favorite pastimes during COVID-19?
I enjoy reading, playing the piano, and playing the occasional video game. I also enjoy solving online cybersecurity challenges (I work full-time as a Cybersecurity Engineer). 

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding things are the relationships forged with and between the students. I enjoy learning about the different cultures and countries of the students.  It is also rewarding when the student’s express satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment regarding their improvement in English. Before COVID, the church would hold potlucks for the ESL program, and I was able to enjoy one of the greatest aspects of a given culture: food. I hope to enjoy this once again when things return to normalcy, as it too was quite rewarding. 

What is something you learned about your students during this remote teaching period?
I learned that 3 of my students have 4 children!  I learned that some students in construction worked on buildings and infrastructure that I've passed by while driving around the county.  I learned that one likes to dance, another started a cooking channel on YouTube, and another is trying to get their dog to be a social media influencer.  While I also learned about some unfortunate circumstances, it's been a joy learning about each other's lives.

Instructor Spotlight: Jill Smudski |Rockville Seniors, Inc

5 months 2 weeks 19 hours 14 min ago


Tell us a little bit about yourself and what has inspired you to be a teacher? 
I became a teacher somewhat accidentally, when I was given a teaching fellowship in my graduate program in computer science. I really liked it, and went on to have several computer science teaching jobs. Later, when my kids had all moved out, I came back to teaching when I volunteered with the Literacy Council of Montgomery County. I discovered that I love ESOL and love working with adults.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an ESOL teacher? 
The biggest challenge is to recognize when my teaching style is a mismatch with a student’s learning style. Especially when the student is communicating with a reduced English vocabulary, it can be difficult to find successful teaching techniques. It’s also challenging to work with a group of students who have different levels of English proficiency.

What has teaching remotely during a global pandemic taught you? 
I have discovered that my students are much more resourceful and motivated than I had ever thought!  They have been eager to learn how to manage the technology, and I think that has given them a confidence boost that carries over to their English learning.

What advice would you give to a new ESOL teacher or volunteer? 
I think the most important skill a teacher can have is the ability to really listen to the student. It sometimes takes critical listening to understand what the student is really asking, or really misunderstanding. I also think it’s valuable to admit when you don’t know the answer to a question. To show you are also willing to learn something will help build a stronger connection with the students.

What have been your favorite pastimes during COVID-19? 
I’ve always done handwork; sewing, knitting, crocheting. I’ve been able to work on more projects; it’s been a way to enjoy the time that I’ve had to spend staying at home.

What do you find most rewarding about your work? 
Of course, it’s always rewarding to know that I’ve helped someone learn and grow in their English mastery.  But more than that, I really enjoy building a relationship with my students.  Having that connection brings depth to our communication, and it’s also just fun to learn about what my students have done in their lives.

What is something you learned about your students during this remote teaching period?
In a way, teaching online has helped to strengthen my connections with my students.  On Zoom, I see them sitting in their homes, see what is in their environment, as they can see what is in mine. This gives us both a more immediate sense of what our lives are like outside of the “classroom,” and also gives us more to talk about!  I’ve been blessed to have a great group of students to work with during this time.
 

Tables or Technology

6 months 1 day 19 hours 14 min ago

Authored by: Kathy Stevens

Tables or Technology?

We are approaching another set of holidays where, in pre-pandemic times, sitting together with family and friends around a table for a Seder dinner or Easter brunch was a typical and special part of the celebrations. Gathering at tables was essential.

Over the last year, we have substituted technology for tables. We’ve gathered in squares on screens—Zoom Seders, Thanksgiving and Christmas Zoom meals and celebrations; you name it, we have Zoomed it. Technology has helped us remain connected to important life events. I have attended a Zoom wedding and a Zoom memorial service, and I have friends who attended a Zoom bris! Having access to technology and the ability to innovate has salvaged some sense of interconnectedness, especially for major life events.

MCAEL’s work has moved to solutions based on distance learning and technology. What has become obvious to me for the future is that we should not be making choices about gatherings in “either/or” terms , that is, either in person or virtually.. Instead, we should be thinking in “and” terms: how do we maximize the positives of being in person and using on-line tools?

While technology has allowed new learners to join classes, especially young parents, for whom the on-line class structure has reduced the childcare, transportation, and time challenges they face. However, many others do not have reliable WiFi or computers that are necessary to fully participate in classes. Further, to build relationships, conduct pre- and post-testing, and support learners, there is still a need for in-person time. As I see it, the next steps are not to decide “when we are going back 100%” for everything, but rather how we integrate online and in person experiences to expand inclusivity, leverage time, and create safe spaces for our work and our celebrations. One can imagine a class that meets at the beginning and end of the session and perhaps one time in the middle as needed. 

I certainly do miss the table gatherings. I miss setting a dinner table and I miss setting a meeting table. We will be back at in person tables and we will have new hybrid models with which to work. The possibilities to serve more adult learners and connect in different ways are exciting.

As we work on this, I wish you all a Happy Easter and Passover and hope that you enjoy whatever gatherings and celebrations that are available safely to you now.
 

Instructor Spotlight: Sitara Maruf|Islamic Center of Maryland

6 months 3 weeks 5 days 18 hours ago


Tell us a little bit about yourself and what has inspired you to be a teacher?
Originally from India, I have been living in the United States for 30 years. I have a master’s in science and a master’s in journalism. I have been a college instructor and a journalist, and I’m an author of an English grammar book. Apart from teaching ESOL part-time, I am a science writer.

Credit for my interest in ESOL teaching goes to my relatives. Back home, many relatives were taking ESOL classes, and on my visit in 2010, they expressed some of their doubts.  I ended up teaching them English grammar every day, and, when it was time for me to leave, they asked when I would return to teach them again! They were overjoyed when I told them I could continue teaching from US too. We installed computers and Internet for them in specific homes, and nearby relatives would gather for the class. I taught them via Skype and Go to Meeting. So, they and other college students inspired and encouraged me to continue teaching.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an ESOL teacher?
Each ESOL learner has a different learning experience, background, and cultural heritage. Some have experience in academic and work environment, and others have never stepped in one! The challenge is to ensure that my instructions and explanations resonate with all. Since adults are conscious learners, it’s important to pick cues and give lot of encouragement.

What has teaching remotely during a global pandemic taught you?
I have been teaching remotely since 2010; however, teaching during the pandemic has brought in many online resources, that were lacking previously, or perhaps I was not aware of. During the pandemic, I started teaching ESOL at the Islamic Center of Maryland and gained valuable insights and input from them. Now that human interactions are fewer in the pandemic, I appreciate the interactions and gratification that come from teaching even more! It has given me and my students a wonderful sense of community besides a tremendous learning experience in a supportive environment.

What advice would you give to a new ESOL teacher or volunteer?
To teach well, teachers must have the passion to teach and also be passionate about the subject they are teaching. Teachers’ knowledge and interest in the subject as well as their energy, enthusiasm, and passion in teaching shows through and inspires and motivates students. Besides getting extensive knowledge of the subject, prepare well for classes, expect the unexpected questions and issues, and enforce discipline and consistency.

What have been your favorite pastimes during COVID-19?
I like reading, writing, and watching documentaries. During COVID-19, we discovered many hiking trails, parks, farms, botanical gardens, and country clubs nearby. As a family, we enjoy nature walks.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Every class is a treat for me when I see the students’ happy faces, their enthusiasm, gratitude, and how they look up to me. In the short-term, seeing increments in their knowledge and confidence makes me very happy. Over the years, I have felt my effort has been worth it, when they share news about better job and education opportunities or independently completing tasks that require higher-order skills.  One mutual benefit in teaching English to adults is that we can have productive, interesting, and fun conversations on many topics, which broadens our horizons.

What is something you learned about your students during this remote teaching period?
Each student is accomplished in a way and contributes positively to local communities.  They also help one another and have their Zoom sessions to practice English or discuss homework.  The English classes have given them another avenue to expand their social and learning network. Despite their work and family obligations and the difficulties that the pandemic has added, they are a happy, chirpy, thankful, and dedicated bunch who finds great pleasure in learning and in the small things of daily life.

Dance Party & Books

6 months 4 weeks 1 day 18 hours ago

(Click on the image to view the conversation)

Blog Author: Kathy Stevens

Did you know our libraries - Montgomery County Public Libraries offer dance parties?  Well, that is one of many things I learned today during my MCAEL Connects Conversation with Anita Vassallo, the Director of MCPL.
MCAEL counts MCPL as one of our largest partners. Not only do the libraries offer conversation clubs for adults who are starting their English language education, but many of the libraries offer ESOL collections, and are always welcoming to adult ESOL class field trips and the opportunities our instructors make available for ESOL students to obtain their library cards.

Among the four books I am currently reading, I am struck by botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, Braiding Sweetgrass.  First, I highly recommend the book as a lovely journey thinking about our natural world through a science lens, but also as a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. This has led me to think about who my teachers are and who we learn from as we move through times that bring us great change.  As an organization, MCAEL continues to rely on the power of the coalition  - program staff, instructors, learners, other community partners, and more – to listen and learn so we can adapt and move forward. I look forward to being in dialogue with many of you as we listen and learn together.

Instructor Spotlight: Lidia Almidon | Drop-in ESOL at Maryvale Elementary School, Rockville Recreation and Parks Foundation

7 months 2 weeks 18 hours 14 min ago


Tell us a little bit about yourself and what has inspired you to be a teacher? 

My name is Lidia Almidon and I was born in Lima, Peru. I live in Gaithersburg, MD. I graduated from Montgomery College and University of Maryland. My hobbies are cooking, painting, and dancing. What inspires me to be a teacher is the magic of the process of learning and sharing knowledge and giving the students the opportunity to acquire a new language and reaching their own goals. It is just amazing. I was inspired by my mother Ines and my First-Grade teacher Carmen Rosa.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an ESOL teacher? 
The challenges I face are in person interaction with students and their difficulties of trying to concentrate while learning at home.

What has teaching remotely during a global pandemic taught you? 
Teaching remotely has taught me to be more patient with the use of technical connectivity mishaps and mostly to connect with my students and build relationships among my students. The sense of community and the capacity of the students to overcome their fears that it is possible to learn using technology.

What advice would you give to a new ESOL teacher or volunteer? 
I will humbly just say that having the drive and motivation to serve one another. It is intrinsically gratifying and to be a part in the process of a student’s journey to learn to speak, write and read English is so important. Being patient, supportive and encouraging will help us in this journey.

What have been your favorite pastimes during COVID-19? 
My favorite pastimes during these challenging times are painting, cooking, creating new recipes and writing poems and journals for a long-awaited writing project.

What do you find most rewarding about your work? 
Teaching for me is allowing myself to encourage another being to fulfill their individual goal to learn English. It is rewarding personally and professionally. I strongly believe that being a teacher can touch a student life forever.

What is something you learned about your students during this remote teaching period?
I learned that my students are caring and look after one another and help one another. The respect, care and admiration and gratefulness are constant. Their energy is vital in the midst of any circumstance. I admire their perseverance, hard work and resilience but most of all their love to learn and thankful heart. 
 

Instructor Spotlight: Chiao-chiao Liu|Chinese Culture And Community Service Center

8 months 2 weeks 18 hours 14 min ago

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what has inspired you to be a teacher?
My father was an English professor; English was my major in college; it all seems to me that I was meant to be an English teacher.  After being in IT field for many years, I am glad I came back to the education field, being an ESOL teacher is my destiny. 

What are the biggest challenges you face as an ESOL teacher?
Being an ESOL teacher to teach adult learners is very different from teaching middle school students. Generally speaking, adult learners are more willing to take the time and effort to learn English, but they need more encouragement.

What has teaching remotely during a global pandemic taught you?
Our ESOL program had to stop in early March of 2020 due to COVID-19. At that time, we did not have any experience in “Distance Learning”. Then thanks to Zoom; we learn to use Zoom and all of our ESOL programs were back on schedule by April of 2020 until now, and going stronger. 

What advice would you give to a new ESOL teacher or volunteer?
Passion and preparation are the key. Keep your passion in teaching, your students can feel that even remotely. Teaching remotely is very different from teaching in-person.  The more preparation one has the better, easier, interesting and fun it will be to teach.

What have been your favorite pastimes during COVID-19?
Listening to music and learning Chinese folk dance through Zoom have always been my favorite pastimes. During COVID-19, I enjoy researching and preparing ESOL class online and have learned a lot about designing games for students, such as crossword puzzle, Bingo, Kahoot, etc. They are so much fun.  
             
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Since I am teaching the adult learners, besides helping them in learning English, we have established friendship.  I am glad that I have made many good friends.

What is something you learned about your students during this remote teaching period?
There is a Chinese proverb saying, “Learning while teaching”.  Since my adult students were immigrants, even though they are not very good at English, but some of them were top on their fields. I found out one student was a musician, a great singer and a pianist. Another one is an artist, he even has his own art studio. One student is a Taichi master.  I am learning more from my ESOL students. 

 

Instructor Spotlight: Mariana Loayza|Catholic Charities

9 months 3 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what has inspired you to be a teacher?
My name is Mariana Loayza. I have a master’s in social communication research from my country of origin, Peru. My career is in Teaching Language Methodology – Spanish, French, and English. My inspiration to teach comes from my parents – both who are university professors. I am certain my love and dedication to teaching is thanks to them.  As a mother of two boys – Nicolas age 8 and Sebastian age 6, I have learned that there is no better way to understand the role of a teacher than when you become a mom. So, my kids are my inspiration too. I dedicated myself to exclusively teaching ESOL when I come to reside in the U.S eleven years ago. Since then my love for teaching grew more than ever. 

What are the biggest challenges you face as an ESOL teacher?
One of the biggest challenges as an ESOL teacher is to always be ready to have an accurate answer to my learners’ questions. To be extremely prepared to solve their doubts in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, etc. To help them face new challenges in their lives by using the language appropriately.

What has teaching remotely during a global pandemic taught you?
It has taught me more about compassion, empathy, and humanity. It has also taught me that student’s commitment in difficult times could be so rewarding and motivating for a teacher that classes can become even more enjoyable and rewarding for everybody. It has taught me that there are no limits for learning when there is a goal settled from the heart and your mind is open wide for new adventures.

What advice would you give to a new ESOL teacher or volunteer?
I would tell them to always be kind, extremely patient and to give their hearts before, during and after class. Every student is immensely different and comes from diverse social, economic and educational backgrounds. We have a huge responsibility to guide them in this amazing path of learning.   

What have been your favorite pastimes during COVID-19?
My favorite pastimes during COVID-19 have been spending more quality time with my family, playing my guitar and piano, exercising in the mornings and chatting with my best friends at night.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding thing about my work is to see how my students feel about themselves after each class. How happy and grateful they become when learning. They are my motivation to continue working hard and to make things better. I learn from them every single day and I think that is why a teacher’s heart and soul never grow older. 

What is something you learned about your students during this remote teaching period?
I learned many things. The main one being is that they never stop trying. They never give up, despite fears of uncertain times and circumstances. 
 

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