Interview with Adult Educator Linda Cole

Linda Cole teaches English at Daley College. 


How long have you been teaching at Daley, and what classes and levels have you taught?

I have been teaching at Daley since 1999. I thought it would be a temporary job, but I fell in love with teaching ESL, so here I am seventeen years later. I am currently teaching level 3, but I have taught levels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Conversational English, and Intermediate Writing.

Where are your students from?

I have taught students from all over the world. I may not be able to remember all of them, but here is a partial list of places: Africa, Belarus, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iran, Jordan, Lithuania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Yemen.

Why do you like teaching ESL?

I like teaching ESL because I feel I can make a difference in people’s lives. I try to put myself in their shoes and think about how difficult it must be to start a new life in a country where you don’t speak the language, and you haven’t grown up in the culture. All the students I have met through the years have been wonderful, strong, hard-working people. They all have hopes and dreams for their futures, and their children’s futures. I feel very fortunate and grateful to be a small part of their lives, and to hopefully help them achieve their goals.

In addition to how rewarding and fulfilling teaching ESL can be, the students have helped me grow as a human being. They have taught me so much about love, life, culture, and religion. We share a lot about ourselves and our lives throughout the semester. We laugh and sometimes cry together. It’s a very unique experience to feel connected to people from around the world.

Last year, for example, we represented ten different countries, so we called our class “the United Nations.” We talked about our cultural differences, but also about how much we all had in common. Our respect and love for one another grew throughout the semester. It was a very spiritual experience.

What are some memorable experiences you’ve had during your teaching career?

A few years ago, I had a very shy and quiet young Chinese man in my level 3 class. His name was Chen, but he wanted to be called Alex. I was Alex’s first ESL teacher in the United States. It was very difficult to get him to talk and participate in class, but he was an excellent student. The next semester, Alex signed up for the conversation class I was teaching in the afternoon. I was surprised to see him because I remembered how he didn’t like to talk in class. Over the semester I watched him grow and overcome his shyness. By the end of the semester, he was telling jokes and was the life of the class. Just this past week, Alex came back to visit me. He is now studying at a community college and plans on attending Columbia College in Chicago next year. He wants to study film and directing. Wow, I couldn’t believe this was the same shy young man I met three years ago. He was confident and outgoing. I was really impressed.

What advice do you have for people who want to teach ESL?

My only advice would be to listen to, and learn from, your students. Let the students talk and ask as many questions as they want. I’ve learned we all learn more by listening to each other than from reading something in a book.