Greetings from ESL and Immigrant Ministries
Speak Easy
Newsletter from English as a Second Language and Immigrant Ministries
Fall 2019
One Wish

By Chris Rossbach, Volunteer at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church

Anyone who has ever heard me speak about my experience with teaching ESL classes can tell you that it's hard for me to talk about it without getting very emotional. I have often said that I would rank it somewhere in my Top Five most important things that I have done in my life.

Our church began thinking about hosting ESL classes a few years ago. For my wife Mary Anne and me, it was a very natural decision to get involved. She is a teacher and wonderfully creative. She spearheaded our church's program, and helped develop it into what it is now. I, on the other hand, am not a teacher, and not terribly creative either. But I have always had a flair for languages, and having studied German all of my life, I have a better than average understanding of our Germanic, English language. We seemed like the perfect pair.

Although I was a bit nervous at the prospect of teaching, I envisioned myself imparting wonderful tidbits of knowledge to our students, while helping them to get a firmer grasp of both spoken and written English. All the while, I would be doing it with kindness and compassion for their unique stories. But what I hadn't envisioned was the growth and personal education that I would receive from the students in our own ESL classroom as a privileged, fluent, English-speaking citizen of the United States. It never even occurred to me that my adult students would perhaps have just as much to teach me about what it means to be an immigrant in the United States, as I would for them in sharing my English expertise.

Our ESL program is set up in semesters. We have returning students, but there are typically many newcomers with each new session. This always makes for a new and tentative chemistry in our class. We all typically start off rather shy (my wife and I included). But as the weeks go on, without fail, every semester blossoms into a family of friends who support each other and look forward to seeing each other every week. Outside of our varying abilities to speak English, we stand on equal footing with equal regard for each other's purpose in being there. So over time we find, mixed in with our grammar lessons, writing assignments and conversations, unique stories of family, love, success, hardship, struggles to gain a footing, and sometimes stereotypes. The list goes on. My wife and I are the fortunate recipients of trust, comfort and an interpersonal look at all of the beautiful people who have chosen to seek our knowledge in helping them speak English just a bit better. Never was this feeling driven home as strongly as in the last ESL session of our last semester. Our class had ended and it was time for everyone to go downstairs for our end-of-the-semester party. In spite of our repeated attempts and the joyous festivities awaiting us, no one would get up and leave. I suppose it was because we didn't want to lose the family of trusted friends that we had all worked so hard to create.
If I had just one wish, it would be that every citizen of this country takes part in an ESL class for just two or three weeks. It's not just about teaching English; it's about trust, kindness and understanding people as individuals. When talking about immigration, it's easy to see immigrants as a group of people trying to "get in" instead of individuals with their own, unique stories. For me, my ESL experience has changed that; I will never see them as a "group" of people. I will see them each as kind Krishna, the engineer, or thoughtful Noyemi, the construction worker, or magnetic Pedro, the retired officer, or quiet Ji Yoon, the oboist, or peaceful Raina, the mom. I will no less see them this way than I see myself as humbled Chris, the ESL teacher.
Save the Date for Training: January 25, 2020

We invite volunteers from ESLIM's member programs to join us for teacher training! On Saturday, January 25, we will offer an abbreviated training for new teachers from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, followed by a session for returning teachers from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The snow date is February 1.

Trainer Lauren Lang equips participants with strategies and activities that they can implement in their classroom, regardless of the curriculum they will use. Participants learn to adapt the activities for different topics and levels.

The topic for the returning teachers' session and the location will be posted soon at

Don't miss this informative and fun opportunity! Advance registration is required by emailing with your name,  phone number, teaching site, and desired training session. 
Teaching Tip: Popcorn!

Check out the Minnesota Literacy Council's blog for classroom activities such as Popcorn!, which encourages listening, speaking, and moving ... no materials or extensive prep time needed.  

Happy 30th Birthday to ESLIM!

Thank you to all the learners, volunteers, donors, and congregations who have joined together in this impactful ministry over the last three decades. We look forward to many more years to come!
Three Ways to Get Involved

1. Volunteer opportunities are available for the winter/spring semester! No teaching experience or foreign language skills are needed--just a willingness to share one morning, afternoon or evening a week, plus some time for lesson planning. Semesters typically last for 10 to 12 weeks. See our website for more information and submit a volunteer application form today.   

2. Did you know you can assist ESLIM just by shopping online? Amazon will donate 0.5% of eligible AmazonSmile purchases when you shop at Simply search for "English as a Second Language and Immigrant Ministries" and select it as your charity.

3. Your donation to ESLIM helps us reach out to prospective students and train volunteer teachers. It also allows our member programs to spend more on essentials such as books and supplies. To donate via PayPal or find instructions for mailing a check, please visit our website.      

We promote and support the teaching of English to adult immigrants of all nationalities in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia and welcome their active participation in our community.

To support the efforts of our member churches, ESLIM handles a variety of tasks in a centralized way. Its activities include the following:
  • Advertising for, placing, and training volunteer teachers
  • Advertising the English classes in foreign-language media
  • Maintaining a phone line for inquiries from prospective students and volunteers
  • Producing the Speak Easy e-newsletter two or three times per year
  • Maintaining a website that features the class schedule, a variety of resources for teachers, instructions for making donations, and information for churches considering an ESL ministry
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