Yesterday I chaperoned my son’s class to Jamestown. As we got on the bus, Đạo sat with his best friend and left me by myself in the row behind them. The ride would be three hours long and I was hoping to catch up with some reading. Then a mother whose son also sat with his friend left her stranded asked if she could sit next to me. Of course she could.
I introduced myself and intended to get back my reading because I did not have my morning coffee and was not in the mood for socializing. I did not ask her what she does or told her what I do, but my eyes lid up when she informed me that she is an ESL teacher at Robinson high school. In a normal circumstance, I would be reserved in our conversation (unless I had a few drinks) when I met someone for the first time, but I did not shy away from telling her my own story.
As an eleven-year-old boy who did not speak a word of English, I was thankful for my ESL teachers (Mrs. Susan Hurlburt and Mrs. Sue Kresge) who taught me more than English. They introduced me to the brand new culture and created a safe space for me. When school cancelled due to inclement weather, they would call me to make sure I did not go to the bus stop to wait in the cold. They drove me and my friends home when we had after school party for the ESL kids. Their opening hearts and welcoming arms will always be remembered.
With the way the current administration is treating immigrants, especially with children, I am more appreciative and supportive of the ESL teachers. They are the ones that truly cared about us. They are our unsung heroes.