Counselor uses experiences to prepare immigrant women for future success

By MaggieMorris

For many people in the United States, English is their first language, the language they grow up understanding and learning. Those who speak English often take for granted the ability to communicate with those around them as well as being understood. Many people who immigrate from foreign countries only know how to speak their native language. English is typically unfamiliar to them. This can make it extremely difficult and frustrating to live in the US because a harsh language barrier exists and it takes lots of practice and time to get over this barrier. Without people to help teach these immigrants English, they might never learn it.

Counselor Mrs. Anna Sparwasser’s ESL students practice the material she taught them. They learned English writing skills. Photo courtesy of Sparwasser.

Counselor Mrs. Anna Sparwasser saw an opportunity to use her background and experiences to help these immigrants. She recalls running into a Marian alumna at a reunion this summer whose friend opened up a daycare in South Omaha. She explained to Sparwasser that many of the teachers in the daycare do not speak English because a majority of them immigrated here and live in a very diverse part of town. Sparwasser has a lot of background experience and knowledge when it comes to English as a Second Language (ESL). She was a school counselor in El Salvador from 1997-1998, a Crisis Bilingual Counselor at the Boys Town Hotline from 2005-2014 and later taught ESL at South High School in 2015. After some discussion and consideration, Sparwasser took on a second job as an ESL teacher for these daycare teachers.

She began teaching at the daycare over the summer of 2022 because it allowed her to ease into it since she didn’t have to worry about balancing it with her busy work and family schedule during the school year. She teaches a small group of women every Monday night for two hours.

During these lessons she teaches them things like the calendar, days of the week, colors, shapes, greetings and much more. She uses techniques like having them repeat things, singing songs and storytelling. Sparwasser feels it is important to teach them words using multiple senses because that helps them retain it.

Sparwasser feels that she is “learning a lot” from these women and has “lots of respect for them.” She recognizes the obstacles that many of these women have to overcome each day and understands that she has to “meet them where they are.” She explained how she appreciates the emotional connections she creates with these women. The fact that “every woman wants to be there” makes the experience so much more meaningful for Sparwasser because she knows how much the women value her teaching and her engaging lessons.

Although Sparwasser has only been teaching these daycare teachers for a few months, she has quickly been able to feel the benefits of this experience and realize how much of an impact these women have on her. This experience has inspired her because she realizes that the women “have the same worries I do, but have to do it working several jobs and still trying to be the best moms they can be.” At the end of the day, she loves “helping women succeed” and providing them with skills that they can use for the rest of their lives.

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