While WY students are in their 6th, 7th, and 8th period classes, one Dolphin spends her afternoons providing a much needed service to her community. Over the course of this school year, Elli Dastrup ‘16 has been teaching English as a second language to foreign professors and their families from the University of Chicago as part of her senior experience. Every Wednesday and Friday Elli goes to a local church building on the University of Chicago’s campus and meets her class of 15 students. On Wednesdays, she teaches a class on American culture and on Fridays she teaches English language. Her students come from a variety of socioeconomic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds and range from 25 years old to 45 years old. As an ESL teacher, Elli is providing a much needed service to people who are unfamiliar with our culture. Her class is completely free, and the skills she is teaching her students can help them to better prepare themselves for job interviews, understand their teachers and school work, or simply live more comfortably in the United States. I had the opportunity to sit down with Elli in Green House to talk about her experience.
How did you come up with the idea to teach an ESL class for your senior experience?
“I knew that I wanted to do some sort of service for my experience. My mom had previously helped a foreign neighbor with their English, so she had some textbooks that I could use.”
Were you nervous when you first started teaching the class?
“Yes, my first day I was super nervous because all of my students are very successful in their home countries. They have professions like engineers, doctors, and water plant researchers (as women!).”
Did you have to undergo any type of training or receive some kind of certificate to become an ESL teacher?
“I actually didn’t go through any type of training to become an ESL teacher. However, I’m teaching my class for free as a service so I feel fine teaching without a license. A lot of my students actually like my class more than expensive classes downtown because I correct their speaking.”
Was there anything surprising or unexpected about your first day as a teacher?
“I’m always surprised by how successful my students are in their home towns and how different the culture is between the U.S. and their home countries. Every day I learn something new about them and their interesting lives!”
What has been the most rewarding part of this experience for you?
“The most rewarding thing is seeing progress in my students and helping them adjust to life here, not just teaching them English. I’ve been able to help my students get set up with doctors and dentists, go to the bank, and even negotiate lease contracts with homeowners. I’ve also helped them with more trivial things like teach them how to make American lunches so their children don’t get embarrassed at school.”
Outside of teaching ESL classes, what other activities do you like to participate in? How do you spend your free time?
“Besides teaching ESL, I work as a teacher’s assistant, I’m the president of Eco Club and Red Cross Club at WY, and I’m president of my church class through which I do a lot of service activities. I like to spend my free time watching Jane the Virgin. “
So, what’s the next chapter in the Elli Dastrup story?
Next year I will be attending Brigham Young University in Utah. I plan to study information technologies and sociology and eventually work for the FBI.
Elli’s hard work and commitment to service are sure to lead towards great things and we wish her the best of luck as she continues to inspire us all.