ESL Teacher Reflects on Life of Learning English as a Second Language

Dirk Seidel is an anomaly in the Amado-Sahuarita ESL program. He came to America in 1957 speaking no English, and now, he teaches English in Arizona and watches as his students become ESL teachers themselves.

Seidel fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1957, finding a new home in Boston. Over the years, he learned English while serving in the US Air Force and working at Texas Instruments until his retirement in the 1990’s. He realized that his English skills could still use improvement despite living in America for nearly 40 years, so he enrolled in night classes at the University of Rhode Island. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration there.

Seidel and his wife moved to Arizona in 2003 where he began volunteering as an English tutor in the Amado-Sahuarita Adult Learning Program. The program offers classes in English as a Second Language, Citizenship Test Preparations, and GED Test Preparations, attracting students of all nationalities and ethnicities.

“I have had not only Spanish-speaking students who want to learn English, but my classes have also included students from Vietnam, South Korea, Colombia and Puerto Rico,” Seidel said. “In fact, one of my former students from Colombia is also teaching English in the ESL program.” Shawna Hansen, director of the Adult Learning Program, said that Dirk’s service is an “inspiration to others.”

Seidel sees the program as a way to help non-native speakers find their way in the world and find better opportunities for their children, all while learning English.

Seidel has no plans to stop tutoring ESL learners. As of August 2015, Seidel had already committed to two more 14-week courses that will begin in September.

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