1) You are an ESL teacher, who is dedicated in Garden Grove Center. When did you start teaching and how long have you done this?
-I’m honored to hear that I’m known as a dedicated teacher. However, all of the teachers here at Lincoln Adult Education Center are very dedicated professionals. I started teaching when I was about twenty-five years old and have been doing it ever since.
2) Where did you receive your bachelor/master degree for teaching? And Which school was your first to teach?
For my undergraduate degree I attended California State Polytechnical University Pomona in Pomona, California. I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts. I majored in Liberal Studies and minored in Marketing. For my teaching credential I attended California State University Long Beach and earned a Multiple Subject Clear Credential with a CLAD (Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer) certificate. I also took the National Teaching Exam in multiple subjects and passed.
When I started teaching, my goal was to teach elementary school. So my first job was in a 4/5 grade combination class over an hour away from Garden Grove in Rancho Cucamonga. Like now, there were very few available teaching jobs in Orange County. I considered myself very lucky to have landed the job that I did. Many of my teaching friends had to substitute teach for awhile before securing a full time teaching job.
3) Since then, how many schools have you taught?
I have taught in two different elementary schools, one middle school and two different adult education programs. I have taught for the Rancho Cucamonga School District, the NewportMesa Unified School District and the Garden Grove Unified School District.
4) Why do you choose this career, especially ESL?
This may sound funny to some, but I didn’t choose teaching, it chose me. I actually went into the business world after college and worked for an oil and gas company and as a salesperson for the phone company. After a few years, I found myself bored and unsatisfied with work. While volunteering at my church teaching a Sunday school class, I realized my true calling in life was teaching. I went back to school to earn my credential and started teaching elementary school. It was in my second year of teaching that ESL came a calling. My vice principal at the time also worked for the adult education program as well. He asked me if I would be interested in teaching ESL at night since I had a CLAD certificate and had passed the Language Development Specialist Test. I needed to make more money to pay off my education debt, so I took on the challenge and started teaching beginning low at night two days a week. It was difficult but at the same time so much fun. When I had my children I quit teaching for awhile to stay home and take care of them. As soon as they started preschool, I went back to work part time at Lincoln Adult Education Center and I’ve been here for over 8 years.
5) What is your thinking process when choosing this career? For example, what are the advantages and disadvantages for a woman who chooses this career?
Like I said, I didn’t really think about it all that much, it just kind of fell in my lap. I had tried other things and was unhappy. I realized that teaching was something I could be passionate about, that I was good at and enjoyed.
6) What are the most precious memories while teaching that you can share with us?
Oh I have had so many. Teaching a child to read for the first time, helping immigrants navigate our crazy American English language, or getting a letter from a prior student telling me how much they appreciated my help are priceless memories I all hold dear.
7) After doing this for a long time, did you discover any difference in reality compared with what you had thought before starting teaching?
Growing up, I believed that teachers weren’t pay that well and it discouraged me from thinking about being a teacher. However, teaching salaries are very good in my opinion and I think I am more than fairly compensated.
8) What are your secrets to keep the teaching fun everyday, for every year while you have to teach the same thing over and over again?
Well, I mix it up every year or I’d go crazy from boredom. It makes for a lot more work, but it’s worth it. I like to try new things, and I even get a lot of ideas from my students. Also, every class takes on its own personality depending on who is in the class in any given year. Interacting with the students is the fun part. I try not to take myself too seriously and I try to get the students to do the same thing. Learning is so much more enjoyable when it’s fun too.
9) What are your methods to help students excel and retain good memories?
People learn in different ways and many ESL students have different needs. Some are visual learners, some auditory learners, etc.., and some need to work on speaking and still others need to work on grammar structure or vocabulary development. What I try to do is make sure I have a balance of speaking, reading, listening and grammar in class so I’m reaching as many students and their needs as I can.
10) I assume that you have applied different methods in teaching, which method is the most interesting for students and brings you the great results?
Well, like I said before, every new school year brings a new crop of students with different needs and wants. I try to use as many different methods as I can to reach a broad scope of learning modalities to get the greatest results.
I think students who participate to the fullest are the ones who will succeed. Learning is not a spectator sport, it’s a partnership between the teacher and the student and the students need to do the work. I have had students in the past tell me that they think my teaching methods are not sound. I simply explain to them they are stuck in the expectation that all they have to do is show up. I promise them if they do everything I ask in class and participate to the fullest they will be surprised and satisfied with the results. For those who take on the challenge, many are quiet surprised at their own success.
11) You are very talented and charming. While in class, you use students’ behaviors to illustrate the point that you want them to remember. Does this come from you, inside you or do you learn it from someone else? For example, instead of asking students not to get dictation for every word, you imitate their behaviors and that made the whole class laugh.
I love this question…it made me chuckle. I love it that you think I’m talented and charming. I think I’m just a big goof ball with too much energy and a desire to make people enjoy what can be a rather daunting task; learning American English, YUCK! It is definitely an innate talent that comes from within. The ideas or jokes just pop into my head and for some reason I am very relaxed in front of a class of fifty adults. Also, I do not like to be too confrontational with my adult students. That doesn’t mean I’m a push over either. I’d just rather solve the problems with laughter and a little embarrassment.
12) I still remember that, you rule is: when in class, every one should have the cell phone in silence mode. When you made mistake, you paid 25 cents while another student made the same mistake, she ran out of class with her cell phone. You just smiled and said, “Kathy run run!”. I was very impressed with your behavior because if it was me, I was really mad if students did not respect my rule. You, instead, turned it into a great comedy scene. How can you do that?
Life is too short to go crazy every time a cell phone rings. Everyone makes mistakes. Plus, I know my students. Kathy hates to be embarrassed and what I did to her was far worse than getting upset with her. Her phone will probably never ring in class again or at least for awhile. And by the way, I paid a dollar! My expectations of myself are much higher and I like to lead by example.
13) To you, what is the great award for being an ESL techer?
The reward is in the relationships and the interesting people I get to meet and teach. My job is a privilege and I thank God daily for this opportunity to spend time with people I really enjoy.
14) While in class, you talk loud, and talk a lot and move around with a lot of energy. May I ask a personal question? How can you maintain such a good health to do that? Do you feel exhausted when you return home?
Yes, I am tired by the end of class. But it’s the good kind of tired where I feel like I’ve put forth my best effort. Coffee helps in the morning and being naturally hyper helps a great deal too. My children both have my energy level as well, so I think it’s in my genes.
15) Teaching ESL for so long, you have a chance to communicate with immigrants from different countries. What do you think about them in general? How about Vietnamese students? How are their learning abilities?
I am so encouraged by the goodness I see in the people that are immigrating to this great nation. As an American, I know I am blessed to live in a country like the USA and I know my students share this same belief. I think Americans who are born here lose sight of how lucky we really are. My students are a daily reminder to me of how truly blessed I am.
Vietnamese students have an outstanding work ethic when it comes to education. They have determination, drive and dedication one does not find too often. I have discovered that most Vietnamese know a lot about English; the grammar, the structure, and vocabulary. It’s apparent to me that their biggest struggle is with actually speaking it.
16) I would like to ask another personal question. Does teaching help you with raising your own kids? And if so, what actually helps?
Actually I think the reverse is true. I believe being a mother has helped me become a better teacher. Children teach you patience; they make you aware of your own short comings and make you want to be a better person.
17) Another personal question, Are you a born American or you were grown up in the US? Where are your origins? When did your family move to USA? While young, have you encountered with a lot of difficulties or things just went right for you? Did your parents have any saying in your career choice?
I was born in the United States and I’m a second generation American on my father’s side. My paternal grandparents came from Italy and they had to learn English on their own. My maternal grandparents and their ancestors have lived here for many years. My grandmother use to joke that they came over on the Mayflower.
The most difficult thing for me growing up was school. I think I was very distracted and hyper as a child and that made learning more difficult. I was also a little naughty and very stubborn. I recognize these traits in my own kids and I am better equipped to help them being a teacher. I was/am a terrible speller too. Thank God for spell check and computers. I know you’re asking yourself, how can a teacher be a terrible speller? It’s true, and I think admitting this to my students actually makes them feel better about their own inadequacies. You can succeed even if you aren’t perfect. Perseverance is the key to success.
My father and mother just wanted me to go to college. Neither of them were able to go because of their lack of money and support. My father’s parents wanted him to quit high school to get a full time job. He didn’t and both of my parents graduated from high school. I don’t think my father wanted me to become a teacher because like me, he didn’t think I would be able to support myself on a teacher’s salary. He wanted me to own my own business or at least work in the business world. However, both of my parents are very proud of my teaching success now and love telling their friends that their daughter is a teacher.
18- Does any of your kids follow your career? What do you think if they do and if they don’t.
I would love for my children to become teachers. They both have great personalities, are very intelligent and have just as much energy as me. I’m already dreaming of helping them in their classrooms. They like to play “school” and pretend they are teachers, but I’ll have to wait and see. They are still too young to make that decision, but you can bet I’m already trying to influence them. If they decide to pursue other avenues, I’ll be just as supportive. They have so many options and I want them to find what brings them the most joy and satisfaction.
19) What do you wish for the future?
I am of the faith that believes no matter what happens to my life and my future, God will not give me anything to difficult that he hasn’t already equipped me to handle. But if I must make a wish, I simply wish for health, happiness and well being for myself, my family and of course my fantastic ESL students.
LAN CHI: Thank you so much Mrs Dianne.