Grant: We get to run our own program, we write our own curriculum…I think I’m a better English teacher now than when I started. It’s just fun.
With English classes we get a constant influx of people, we usually get the newest people, so it changes a lot. A lot of times they are very nervous when they show up and I think it’s fun because it’s not a very intensive classroom environment so it’s fun to see people open up and feel comfortable. You become aware that they are just people so you talk to them like you would other people, as long as you have the language skills to do so. You quickly forget about refugee status or anything like that and just talk about who’s good at English, who is not so much, who talks in class, who has cute kids. Stuff like that, same kind of stuff you’d talk about with coworkers.
Hayley: Teaching. It’s reaffirmed that there are kinds of universal communication that works with everybody. Like smiling and laughing and being kind of goofy when teaching class. I first tried that out in China with little kids and it turns out it works just as well in Montana with people from the Congo, or Eritrea or Iraq or Syria. There is a kind of basis of human communication that pretty much works wherever you are. It’s definitely helped me develop that skill-set; to feel like no matter where I am, or no matter how much language I share in common with someone, I can communicate with them.
Photos and interview by Elliott Natz