Kolter here! I’m basically a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to Project Learn duties: I teach, coordinate the Practice GED test, and even make up most of the family literacy activities when I have the time in between work and school these days. Both of which like to keep me pretty busy.
Now, normally in my ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) I throw parties. You name it, I’ll find a reasons to have a party for it: Halloween, Christmas, heck, even the beginning of summer. And usually my students bring the best food imaginable: papaya (a Laotian cabbage salad–not the fruit) guacamole, currie, sticky rice–at the Halloween party this year one of my volunteers even brought in Barberton Chicken. It’s usually a regular cornucopia of cuisine and delicacies. I used to tell them to bring whatever they’d like, but now, in regards to all the international food, I usually recommend it. What can I say? My students spoil me rotten. But last night we ended up with a somewhat impromptu soiree. It all started with some promotional pictures and some pumpkin cookies made by one of our volunteers that I may have discreetly suggested she make–now, I say a lot of things in my classes; I don’t actually expect people to do it. Anyway, after a rousing speech, a number of students volunteered to “model” for some promotional pictures that we plan to send out to all of the organizations and individuals that supported us this year. While standing in the sidelines to help my beginning students with Teresa’s, our volunteer graphic designer and photographer, directions, I noticed not only how diverse our student population is–we have students from Laos, Columbia, Myanmar, Mexico, Brazil, and even the good old US of A–but also how truly grateful our students are and appreciative they can be. Let’s be honest. How many of us would really want our picture to be on promotional material that will be sent to hundreds of strangers? Well, except me, but Rick, our executive director, doesn’t usually give me much of a choice.
But the point really hit home once I explained the purpose of Thanksgiving in America and asked them to describe the things that they were truly thankful for in their life. It’s truly humbling to hear the appreciation the students expressed for me as their teacher, my volunteers, and also for our program. Moments like these help me remember the difficulties that they faced in their own countries and the realities of struggling to live in a country where most people couldn’t even comprehend the suggestion of learning another language. I’m simply happy that I have the opportunity to provide them with the skills to help them navigate through a overwhelming monoglot society. The desire to learn English is there, and they, sometimes to my dismay, never cease asking me for more homework.
Very few people, I think, have the opportunity to go to work and feel like they can make a positive impact in the lives of others . One of the perks to the jobs! And while I know I’ll never be at the high-end of the career ladder when it comes to salary, I have the opportunity to head home, knowing that I brought someone the gift of true freedom through education. Life is fortunate when it is truly rewarding, and days like these keep me smiling when I head into my classroom every single day.