“I actually first came [to OLC] because I had taught ESL internationally. I think that our students bring a lot to the community, and I can play my part by welcoming them to my country and just being a friend to them, and a teacher…helping them learn society here and culture here. Paul, the longtime OLC tutor trainer, said to me, ‘You should think about Americorps!’ I started in January, which is kind of weird because most Americorps members started in September. So I just kind of jumped in.
[What] makes my day every day is just seeing students, when they’re like, ‘I’ve done something really small,’ like a small accomplishment, but to them it’s so big. Or seeing their faces light up when you say, ‘Good job, you did it!’ A lot of times, when they are able to relax, that’s really nice. You can see them learning better when they’re able to just laugh and have fun. That encouragement is my favorite part [of my work], whether by me or by other students.
I used to think that literacy was just being able to read. But that’s not all. It involves everything; being able to communicate, being able to read, yes, but also to understand what [the text] means, to understand all the words, to be able to use that in real life…so I think that translates to every area of your life. If you know language, that is life. It translates to all areas of life.
One thing I really love [about OLC] is that it’s welcoming. The students enjoy it here. The staff is so welcoming; they always say hi; the students can stop in their offices and the staff will stop what they are doing to [greet them]. Even old students [stay in touch]. [Longtime teachers] will say, ‘I had a student contact me from 8 years ago!’ It’s because they felt so welcomed here. And I feel the same way. I can also translate that to my students. When a new student comes in, they are like, ‘Who are you? Where are you from?’ It’s like a family. That’s a big plus about this place, and I think that’s why we keep getting growth.
I think something I would like to see is more education for those who are not internationals, or more education from an international [perspective] to the community, because sometimes people don’t understand. [At OLC,] everybody’s learning; even the teachers are learning.”