Lions' Digest Winter Issue 03 2020


08 | WINTER 2020

Harpster said. “He sent us a picture of the cool

food he made. He made this Mexican turkey

recipe, and he was so excited about it and proud

of it and talked about just what he learns in class

and perspectives that he’s gained from class.

When things like that happen, I know that I’m

in a pretty amazing job.”

In addition to these relationships she builds

with students, Harpster feels incredibly lucky to

see friendships form between students.

“Something else that’s actually really cool is

when I see in my classroom friendships that

form, whereas in their countries they never

would. Like their counties might be at war, or

they [practice] totally different religions that

don’t agree at all, and yet they are great friends.

And then ten years later I still see them having a

reunion together, they’ll, you know, send me a

picture on Facebook. Those I think are the big

moments that are super cool. Yeah, I feel pretty

lucky,” Harpster said.

Outside of teaching classes, the ESL

department focuses on supporting families.

Whether that’s family involvement—hosting

potlucks and game nights—or linking them with

community resources, the duties of the ESL

department extend far beyond the classroom.

“The role of an ESL teacher is kind of--you’re

definitely a language teacher but you kind of take

on almost like a cultural liaison role, with the

family often, because you’re the first ones that

they know. We often end up helping them find

an attorney, or maybe get healthcare, or find out

how to get to the dentist,” Harpster said.

When the pandemic hit, the work outside the

classroom continued. A number of the ESL

families have been disproportionately impacted

and further marginalized by the pandemic, and

the ESL department recognized the need to

support families heavily impacted by COVID-19.

Upon recognizing this need, faculty members set

out to raise money.

“We’ve raised, I mean I think we’re over

$50,000 now. We’ve been able to help with rents

and food and emergency bills and car repairs,”

Harpster said.

The pandemic impacted the ESL department

in more ways than one. Typical communitybuilding

events made to bring students, families,

and teachers together have been put on hold.

“That’s one of the saddest things, actually, we

can’t have our big potlucks in the classroom this

year. We do that every year and everyone brings

in food from their country,” commented

Harpster on the lack of family involvement

events this year due to the pandemic.

These events outside the classroom don’t

only act as a way for families to get acquainted

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