I am currently taking an ESL course and we had the opportunity to interview an ESL teacher. I interviewed Denise Teetor who is the ESL Teacher at Hastings Senior High School. She told me about her experiences getting into this subject field and how not always was she the ESL Teacher. I learned so much from this opportunity. This interview has me really excited to be a teacher. All the information here will hopefully help those people who want to become teachers. Getting the insights from another teacher lets you have a feeling of what you are getting yourself into. I am not trying to scare anyone, I'm just showing it how it is. Enjoy the interview! I will have the audio podcast available soon! Click the picture below to download a copy of the document to your device.
I am currently taking an ESL course and we had the opportunity to interview an ESL teacher. I interviewed Denise Teetor who is the ESL Teacher at Hastings Senior High School. She told me about her experiences getting into this subject field and how not always was she the ESL Teacher. I learned so much from this opportunity. This interview has me really excited to be a teacher. All the information here will hopefully help those people who want to become teachers. Getting the insights from another teacher lets you have a feeling of what its like to be in the classroom. Enjoy the interview! I will have the audio podcast available soon! Click here to download a copy of the document to your device.
Denise Teetor: ESL at Hastings Senior High School
Pablo MORALES GARCIA
Mrs. Denise Teetor is an English as a Second Language Teacher at Hastings Senior High School in Hastings Nebraska. She has been teaching at the high school for more than 30 years. She has quite a different perspective of the world since she has traveled outside of the United States plenty of times. She has seen so many changes in ESL over the years. She has quite the story to tell in which she becomes the ESL teacher she is today.
Mrs. Teetor was not an ESL teacher from the beginning. She use to teach physical education and coach for a long time. She decided to pursue a different area of teaching and left behind being an PE teacher and decided to teach English in Japan. She wanted to do something different with her time during the summers instead of wasting it. She saw an advertisement to teach in Japan for six weeks and thought “that sounds pretty cool”, and that’s how she got involved with Japan. She really enjoyed it and had so much fun with it.
After one summer, she decided to pursue her ESL endorsements. She was thinking ahead that she could teach ESL at the high school level at some point down the road. One summer as she was getting ready to go back to Japan, she knew that the ELL teacher at Hastings High would be leaving that summer, even though she had not filed her resignation letter. Mrs. Teetor took some steps before the other teacher quit. She let the school know that she was interested in the position. The teacher did end up leaving and she received a phone call asking if she was interested in the ELL position and she said “Yes”. This is how she moved from physical education to ELL. Japan really peaked her interest working with foreign kids.
She is happy with how much ESL/ELL has evolved over the years, especially since she saw there was not a lot of curriculum that existed. The number of students has changed over the years. The program development has come a long way. There was curriculum that really existed. They were fortunate when they were able to find books related to ELL/ESL. Now there are whole curriculums that one can use. That has been an advancement of ELL programs. It is like all other curriculums in schools such as science where you have books, notebooks and a foundation to use. You start at the foundational levels and move through the different stages of it. It has been one of the biggest tools available so teachers don’t have to go out and make their own material.
She describes the program at Hastings Senior High School. She gets all different levels of ESL students in each class period. She explains that in an ideal world, students are grouped by their level such as all level 1 students are together, level 2 are together, and so forth. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have that luxury at the high school. She works with each level of students individually so each group of students can be differentiated as needed. She splits the groups up between her and Mrs. Brenneman, the para educator, to help each leveled group. The program at HHS is not a program that is like those implemented in other schools. The program isn’t a dual language or other type. They just work based on the situation they have or a melting pot as she states. She is very proud of the graduation rate that has increased. If the kids start with the program, they tend to finish with the program unless they move away. She is proud that the ELL students have been able to take all the required classes or core classes needed to graduate. Even though they might not have a high level of English, “they do pretty well”. Even though teachers provide differentiation, they learn all the same material as regular students. The students are able to get into the classroom right away. This is good for them since they can get “real world” experience and immerse themselves in the culture and listen to how students talk. No one ever follows grammar rules when the speak.
Mrs. Teetor mentions that students have to take a test to see if they need ESL services based on responses on intake forms when transferring into the district. She uses the newly implemented ELPA to screen prospective and current students who might or are using ESL services to measure their level of English. Newly arriving students fill out a questionnaire that askes the language they spoke first, what language is spoken primarily at home, and what language they want to be communicated with. If any of these are not English, they need to be tested. Even though a student knows English, they still have to take the test if their language spoken at home is not English. She uses a computer screener test. Anyone that is four (4) or above, they do not need to be in the program but anything below that, students should be enrolled in ESL/ELL. Things are done differently at the elementary level compared to the high school level.
Mrs. Teetor works closely with other teachers. She also likes to know what the teachers are teaching so she can meet the needs of students such as preparing a presentation or report. With American History, the students have no background especially with the foreign students. American history pertains to the United States. Math is math, science is science, these things are the same all the way across cultures. She enjoys how things are taught at HHS. Students are in ELL for at least 2 class periods. She tells us about an example student who doesn’t speak a lot of but is very bright. Looking at her transcripts, she is a very well-rounded person. She has taken courses in psychology to advanced math. She was top of her class before moving. This student is “brilliant”, according to Mrs. Teetor. She sees how this student can feel out of place due to the language barrier. She sees another barrier with math leaning towards story-problems. It intimidates students since it involves reading instead of involving direct math problems. What is truly moving is that she truly advocates for students to get them in the regular classroom where they will have to think, perform in the real thing. She knows it will be hard but it would be a “disservice” if she does not.
She hasn’t faced any teachers who have rejected or negated students. This at least hasn’t occurred during her time her but she says that “it might have happened before I started.” She believes this hasn’t happened because of her strong personality and she knows the teachers will be supportive at Hastings Senior High School. She hopes that the next person who replaces her will continue on standing up for the students. She also knows which teachers will be best for her students and she know the teachers who will not be a good fit. She moves students as necessary to put them in the right classrooms. She would rather do something else with the student if the teacher is not a good fit for the students. For a new teacher, this is something that he or she will not know and this will take time to figure out. She is hopeful the other teacher will be the best advocate for the ESL students.
She has great advice for new ESL teachers especially for the teacher replacing her. The best advice would be just to have fun with these students. They do need to learn but also everything is not so rigid that they can’t enjoy. Simply cramming information gets them discouraged. It has been interested and fun for them to know. Everyone has some kid within each other. We need to promote this with the kids. She gets a lot out of the kids when they have fun. If they are sitting bored, they are not going anywhere. This is her overall advice.
Thank you, Mrs. Teetor for allowing me to interview you. It was such a great insight of ESL and very helpful for me for my future career as an ESL Teacher. I wish you the best in luck with retirement and hope to hear about your adventures in Japan! Cheers!
A podcast of this will be available on my SoundCloud page soon!