Sarah’s teaching our newer Kiwis English and helping our Taranaki centre train new volunteers.
Sarah taught ESOL for 36 years, in Aotearoa and overseas. She started back in the 1970s, working mainly with Samoan and Cambodian students at Henderson High School, Auckland. She was Head of English at New Plymouth Girls’ High School then Head of the English Language Institute at WITT (the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki).
A published ESOL author, Sarah has links to Nepal and China. Her book, ‘Higher Learning, a Himalayan journey,’ focussed on a needs analysis for a Nepalese charity about Nepal’s English language teaching programmes, and formed the basis for training workshops.
To complement the Chinese national English language curriculum, Sarah developed a curriculum for 16 Chinese high schools which was taught by foreign, native-speaking teachers recruited by WITT. Sarah also set up a foundation English language course for Beijing University of Technology students who wanted to continue tertiary studies in New Zealand.
Living in Sarawak, Malaysia, for five years, Sarah worked for Curtin University, where she ran English language teaching courses for teachers from China.
Sarah’s volunteered for English Language Partners since 2012. As well as teaching and training, she’s also facilitated ESOL workshops and acts as a mentor for the centre’s teachers.
Sarah’s most memorable learner was Kim, a Vietnamese migrant, who worked seven days a week in a bakery and café with her husband, living with their children upstairs. Sarah taught Kim at the end of the day, sitting at a café table, while another worker wiped down tables and mopped the floor, and Kim’s two small children played and occasionally tried to join in lessons!
Kim wanted to improve conversation with customers: to better understand and respond to orders and questions. This gave lessons a focus, and Sarah loved Kim’s enthusiasm for role play and dialogues. Teaching Kim in her own working and living environment gave Sarah insight into the challenges Kim faced, including virtually no spare time and the lack of a quiet place to study.
What Sarah finds most rewarding are the rich cultural interactions that come from working with migrants.
“I learn as much, if not more, from learners as they do from me.”
“It’s a privilege conversing with migrants – it challenges and develops my own world view,” she says. “Learning a language is inextricably linked with learning a culture.”
Sarah enjoys continuing to use her professional skills. “Being a productive and contributing member of society is important to me in retirement.”
She finds each new intake of volunteer home tutors a vibrant group of people with open minds, a thirst for learning and a desire to give back to the community.
“English Language Partners seems to attract wonderfully optimistic and selfless people.”