ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) is a school program designed to educate students who speak a primary language that is different from English. For an ESOL teacher, the experience is not only about teaching these students but also learning from them as well. Just ask Irena Stammer of High Point High School in Prince George’s County.

Stammer holds a Master in Education in TESOL from the University of Maryland, College Park. She has been an ESOL teacher in Prince George’s County for 26 years and has been at High Point for 24 years.

What are your daily duties and responsibilities as an ESOL teacher?

“Waking up in the morning is not always easy, but knowing I get to come teach and see all these fresh teenage faces keeps me going. I simply love my job. I love being around teenagers and being a mentor to them. I like having routines that they can depend on day in and day out, and I like knowing how to maintain control of a class full of students. I like having a balance between that first few minutes of class, when we are joking around, greeting each other and getting settled, as well as the serious part of class when I offer them something new to learn. They all want to learn, and they are eager. The students I had last year come and visit me between classes, giving me a hug and a smile or come before school with questions about their new classes and assignments. By the end of the school day, I feel complete, and I know I’ve done a good job.”

What is the best part of your job?

“[My favorite part is when old students come back to visit, and tell me I made a difference in their lives. I have so many old students as friends on Facebook, and I adore watching them grow, have children and go through the various stages in their lives, always maintaining contact with me and often visiting me, or meeting me for coffee. Some of my best friends were students 20 years ago.”

What’s most fun about teaching ESOL students? What’s most challenging?

“The variety of students, languages and cultures is wonderful! And the fact that they are all so motivated to learn what you have to teach them. [Many come] from countries where education is not free, and getting to school is not easy. They also seem so shocked that I don’t discriminate based on their nationality. Many of these students are older and grab onto this chance at education with everything they have. However, they also bring with them a huge variety of issues, from abuse to neglect, and most of them are living here with a member of their family whom they don’t even know. That is the most challenging part—trying to help them adapt, move on to reach their goals and be comfortable while they are doing that.”

Laura Catherine Hermoza has a lifelong love for writing. In addition to serving as a contributor to various media publications, she is also a published novelist of several books and works as a proofreader/editor. LC resides in Baltimore County.

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