On a Personal Level: The Impact of ESOL Classes
Some interesting stories about attendees of the Library’s ESOL classes, from reports by their teachers:
One teacher at the St. George Library Center in Staten Island cited a student from Mexico City who had been in the United States for two-and-a-half years, knowing very little English at all. He had been working in the kitchen of a Manhattan restaurant with the same group of co-workers from the time he arrived, but he was afraid to speak to them until he learned English in our program last spring. His teacher reported, “He is jubilant that he can now actually speak to and befriend those people whom he has ‘known’ for more than two years. Suddenly his life is full of friends who socialize together, to whom he can talk about his life in his home country, show his drawings, and even teach to cook. His life, he says, is transformed.”
Another teacher, at our Washington Heights Branch, reported about Jean, who had begun a career as a lawyer in Haiti, but left to come to New York with his wife and daughter because of the violence and political instability in his home country. He came without knowing English at all, but studied with enormous concentration in our classes and in his studies on his own at home. When he first started in our program, he was working as a hospital orderly, in a job he got through an agency that paid very little. His teacher reported, “By the end of the class term, his English had improved so much that the hospital approached him about working directly for them, not only as an orderly, but as a translator.” He’s currently looking to continue his studies by enrolling part-time in a local community college to get an American degree.
Another student at Washington Heights, Ana Maria, from Mexico, proudly reported that, thanks to what she learned in class, she was able to communicate with a doctor by herself for the first time when she needed medical treatment after falling and injuring her arm. Wojciech, another St. George student, a 21-year-old electrician from Poland who had been working only sporadically, was so excited at the small party held on the final day of class that he couldn’t take a bite to eat. He had just that day finally landed a position as an electrician — a full-time job with benefits. “He got the job because of his abilities as an electrician,” said his teacher, “and because he was able to express himself in English! . . . As his teacher, I was a proud as a new papa bird!”
Finally, as testimony to the long-lasting impact of our program, there’s the example of Lynn, a former student of our teacher at the Dongan Hills Branch in Staten Island. Lynn contacted her former teacher in the spring, asking to use her as a job reference. Soon thereafter, Lynn proudly announced that she had secured a position as an ESOL teacher herself, working at a private school in Manhattan’s Chinatown, expressing how delighted she was to be able to give back to the community because she felt that she had received so much.
NYPL's ESOL classes at the St. George Library Center and the Dongan Hills and Washington Heights Branches have been made possible by generous gifts from Dwight and Julie Anderson and from a private family foundation.