Each of the five students in the English class is a refugee, each from a different country, each with a different language. The volunteer teacher, Anne Pyzocha, is a student herself, in the last semester of GSE’s two-year Master of Science in Education in the Educational Linguistics Division, specializing in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, or TESOL.
For two hours once a week during Penn’s Winter Break, Pyzocha taught classes at HIAS Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia nonprofit that has been helping immigrants since 1882.
“I use a lot of visual aids. You become an artist and an actor. I draw and mime a lot of things,” says Pyzocha. “It’s knowing how to break it down, to use words they already know to understand new concepts.”
The volunteer teaching, which she will continue throughout the spring semester, is the capstone of her degree, known as “service learning,” and brings together everything she has learned while pursuing her Penn degree.
“I am providing a service to the community by teaching, but I am also learning through the service,” she says. “There’s a lot of reflection: What did I do today and how could I do this better? After the first class, I was thinking of how I could incorporate more task-based learning into my lessons.”