I glue myself to my news sources and computer to sift, accumulate, consolidate, select news and information, then organize, cut, shorten, and simplify important articles for immigrants, asking always: What do newcomers need to know? What is the best and simplest way to present it? I provide word help so they can read faster, build their vocabulary, and get the main drift of news and skills to enhance their lives in the United States. After editors and fact checkers, Easy English NEWS goes to press, and my next job is the teacher's guide and the quizzes for the website. In the summers, I indulge my addiction to writing other materials for language learners.
- Winner, 2012 NJTESOL/NJBE President's Award for contribution to English Language Learners
- Winner, 2012 Mensa Education and Research Foundation Award for Intellectual Contribution to Benefit Society
- Author, editor-in-chief, and publisher of Easy English NEWS
- Author of 26 ESL texts and resources for students and teachers of English as a second language
- A veteran teacher with 40+ years of experience in teaching English language learners
- Teacher-trainer, workshop presenter, key note speaker, and your humble servant.
How did this all begin?
Way back before the field of TESOL was known in New York City, I graduated from the City College of New York magna cum laude with a degree in Spanish and education, and started out as a Spanish teacher. After one semester, my principal said,
"You speak Spanish; teach these kids English," and then he led me to a class of thirty-two new arrivals from all over the western hemisphere. They were listed as eighth graders--some because they had actually finished seventh grade in their home country...others, well, because they were thirteen years old--too old for elementary school--but hadn't been to school at all.
There were no books and no materials. There was no curriculum..There were not enough desks.
Students sat on the window sills until desks could be brought for them. I quickly found my heart in this classroom. I soon learned that the methods for teaching Spanish as a new language were not going to work in teaching English to this group. I created materials based on what students needed to know: How to navigate the school, the community, and New York City. I taught lessons three times. First in English, then in Spanish, then in English again. For those who were pre-literate, I taught how to hold a pencil and form the letters of the alphabet. At the time, I had no idea of how to teach literacy in a language students didn't yet know.
Two years later, I got my Masters in TESOL, courtesy of New York University's Experienced Teacher Fellowship Program and learned how to teach English without depending on translation.
Since then, I've taught English, literacy in both Spanish and English, earth science, biology, U.S. history and geography, pre-algebra math, health, child care, and citizenship preparation to newcomers of all ages and all levels, from just about everywhere. In addition, I've been a bilingual teacher, a reading teacher, and a mainstream English teacher.
My career started in New York City: first junior high school, then high school, and finally adult school. After moving to New Jersey, I worked my way back down, from adult school to elementary school. For several summers, I was ESL director of the Summer Language School at Frost Valley YMCA Tokyo-New York Partnership.
I love experimenting in the classroom, trying new things, inventing games, and taking risks. My heart used to fill with trepidation when there was an unexpected observation by a supervisor--I often didn't know how activities were going to turn out, as I was always trying something new.
I loved watching faces light up when comprehension took place. My motto is "Students who feel smart learn faster," and I've always paid special attention to pacing lessons so beginners (who are so easily overwhelmed) experience plenty of success.
I've done teacher training at Fairleigh Dickinson University and have been called on to deliver workshops and all-day training programs at schools around the country, as well as being honored by invitations to be keynote speaker at NYSTESOL and CONTESOL conferences. I was invited by the USIS to train teachers in the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, I had always said, "I want to be a writer when I grow up."
After a three-day course in possibilities at Landmark Education, I realized that at age 48, I was quite grown up, and could find a way to both write and continue teaching. I left the safety of my job in Fort Lee, NJ in 1987, to devote full time to materials writing and teacher training.
I'm particularly interested in helping teachers teach the "natural way", using many modalities, and in teaching reading holistically, using "whatever works". The buzzword that best describes me is "Passionate Eclecticism." I don't follow any rigid rules or methodologies, but take techniques and modify methods from many sources as they fit my students' needs. Yet it's always done with energy, humor, and passion, which seems to harness students' motivation and desire to put in the work that it takes to master a lesson.
An editor at Prentice Hall read an article I'd written for Instructor Magazine about training English-speaking buddies to work with ESL students. She shocked me with a phone call one day, asking me what I'd include in a book whose title she had in mind: "ESL Teacher's Activities Kit."
I told her I'd put in it all the things I wished I had known right from the first day 20 years ago: how to teach ESL, how to manage a classroom, what activities to make language memorable, and all the songs, chants, games, and ways to celebrate that had taken 20 years of trial and error, college courses and TESOL workshops to develop. "OK," she said, "then write it." Two years later, ESL Teacher's Activities Kit was published and has been widely used since then in ESL teacher training programs.
At an ESL conference in Toronto, Ontario, way back, maybe 30 years ago, I saw a newspaper produced by the Canadian government there, called "Newcomer News." In it were articles about Canadian history and government in easy English. I thought that there ought to be such a newspaper in the U.S. for our new immigrants. I waited, but none seemed to develop, in spite of the great need that our newcomers face in catching up with what the average American 6th grader knows about our country.
In 1996, together with Mariko Sasaki, director of JBC Language in Fort Lee, NJ, I founded Easy English NEWS, which at that time, was intended just for readers in Bergen County, New Jersey. We gave it away free to ESL programs and at ethnic grocery stores and libraries, hoping to fund it with advertising. Mariko and I helped a group of ESL teachers with similar intentions to launch Easy English NEWS of Napa County, California They soon went on under their own steam, with their own writers, renaming their paper Easy English Times. A year later, Easy English NEWS became a national newspaper, and I am still the publisher, editor, main writer, and chief bottle-washer for this ongoing labor of love. After six years of scraping by, while building our marketing expertise and customer base, we now thrive by subscriptions, and take no advertising. There is one continuing ad, however, Mariko Sasaki's JBC Language School in Fort Lee, NJ.
I've two grown and married sons, and four grandkids...and a brand new great grandson. In my spare time, I like to kayak, hike, bike, read, and write novels. Kristina, 1904: The Greenhorn Girl was my first attempt: fiction based on stories my grandmother told me about her first year in the U.S. I
Since 2007, I've lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia, just two blocks from my long-time love and writing mentor, Warren Murphy.