Who is Elizabeth Claire?
I've enjoyed being a partner in your classroom! Although I am now retired from Easy English NEWS, you and your students are still important to me.
It's always been a question of: What do newcomers need to know? And after that: What is the best and simplest way to present it? What word help is needed? What activities will help students retain vocabulary and content?
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.
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'm particularly interested in helping teachers teach the "natural way", using many modalities, and in teaching reading holistically. The buzzword that best describes me is "Passionate Eclecticism."
At an ESL conference in Toronto, Ontario, back in the 1980's, I saw a newspaper produced by the Canadian government, 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.
A year later, Easy English NEWS became a national newspaper. I was the publisher, editor, main writer, and chief bottle-washer for this ongoing labor of love from 1996 to 2020. It is now in the very competent hands of Carol Brigham, leaving me to retire to write a few more books.
Since 2007, I've lived in Virginia Beach, Virginia. You can reach me at ESL@elizabethclaire.com.