Alumni Reflections: Empowering local communities through English teaching

What I do now proves that a teaching career can be an effective tool to change an entire community like my community of birth – Jarwinken Wiah, BP TESOL Alumni

For the past three years World Learning, Americorps, English for New Bostonians, Massachusettes Immigrant and Refugee Advacacy Coalition and the Massachusettes Office of Refugees and Immigrants have come together to offer the Best Practices (BP) in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) course for New Americans. The goal of the four week intensive program is to prepare Americorps volunteers to serve in the New American Integration Program (NAIP). NAIP AmeriCorps Members, many of whom are from immigrant and refugee communities themselves, assist immigrants and refugees in the Boston area to gain economic stability and more fully participate in our society through improving English skills, becoming US citizens, and connecting with community resources. We asked Jarwinken Wiah, a recent graduate of the BP course to share his reflection on this program.

IMG_1269My name is Jarwinken Wiah; I was born and raised in Jedepo, a jungle community in Southeastern Liberia. My parents are poor and uneducated. The community of Jedepo has no infrastructure of roads for vehicles, telephones for communications, pipe borne water for drinking, electricity for lights, televisions for viewing, and grocery stores for shopping. Sustenance farming is the livelihood of the residents in the community.

Reflecting on life’s different dimensions; a jungle community life and a life in the United States are the motivating factors for my persistent pursuit for education that I hope and believe will ultimately allow me to realize my dream. All along, teaching as a career was not in the midst of my contemplated careers for this dream of mine, a jungle community changer. My career wish is the one that would prepare and offer an opportunity for me to serve as a bridge to connect the Jedepo community with audiences that have the resources and means for empowerment to ultimately provide an opportunity to benefit the inhabitants to improve their livelihoods. However, the sacrifice of two American Peace Corps volunteers who offered me the rudiment of education in rural Liberia and my personal transitional and integration experiences as a former new immigrant in the United States influenced my decision to sign up for the cause of the New American Integration Program (NAIP) membership, which is teaching newly arrived immigrants and refugees.

BUzwD-aCIAEBSoTThe first step of this journey was taking the World Learning SIT Best Practices in TESOL for New Americans course. During the course I had the experience of training with twenty-seven other participants from diverse backgrounds and communities throughout Massachusetts. The training allowed me to develop the ability to plan, teach and evaluate interactive and communicative English language lessons. Moreover, the training built my competency in planning and teaching, which are effective tools for community health messaging, policy planning, and implementation.

The African Community Education Program (ACE) program is my current placement site. I’m in charge of coordinating the adult English language classes and citizenship programs. My first challenge was putting in place an overview and syllabus for the new calendar year because there was no established framework in place to teach the class. I reviewed my learning materials from the course and ordered appropriate textbooks to ensure a supportive curriculum.

Most of our learners are Burundians who are non-English literate. I do not speak nor understand any Burundian language. I am proud to say the training gave me the skills that are helping me to make the class engaging. Listening and Speaking is the first segment of the syllabus, followed by reading and writing. Even though, I had always wished to help support my jungle village, I am glad that I am able to help other Africans who need navigating skills for integration into the larger American society. What I do now proves that a teaching career can be an effective tool to change an entire community like my community of birth.

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