MEmber of the Month:

Robert Freeman


Chairperson, Language & Culture Department

Delaware Technical Community College

Years Involved in/Teaching ESL?


Why did you become an ESOL teacher?

I had just graduated from college and was a middle school teacher in rural western Pennsylvania. I started off teaching English to native speakers, but I was contacted by a colleague about a Peruvian refugee family who had fled Peru due political persecutions. A local church had helped the family re-settle in a small community where only English was spoken. So I ended up volunteering to tutor them English, which wasn't just a second language, but for them was also a critical lifeline in the middle of rural poor community that they found themselves. The sense of meaning and purpose I felt inspired me to re-direct my career toward teaching ESL.

What other jobs or careers did you have before landing in TESOL?

I taught middle and high school English and Spanish.

What do you love about your career?

I love the passion and dedication of the professionals in our field. Certainly, no one goes into teaching for the money or working conditions, but TESOL in particular is full of dedicated, tireless professionals who give 110% everyday. So I'd have to say that, in addition to doing work that is meaningful, I really love the opportunity to collaborate with others whose work is inspired by conviction and passion. Now, as a Chairperson at a community college, I have been blessed to lead a group of talented and dedicated faculty and staff who exemplify what is best about our profession. I'm also lucky to work for Deans and an institution that believe in our ESL program, and supported us so that we may in turn serve our students.

Who or what inspires you?

I am always inspired by those students who work 2-3 jobs and carry tremendous family responsibilities, yet show up for class on time, every time and give 100% to their studies and classes. Whenever I'm tired after working another 12+hour day, I only need to think of those students to be recharged and reinvigorated. Students whose grit and integrity help them endure the political, economic, and academic challenges to take their studies seriously are the ones who most inspire me.

What has been your greatest accomplishment (so far)?

In terms of career: The child of an often unemployed coal miner, I was the first in my family to go to College (in fact, neither of my parents graduated from high school). I therefore had to navigate my way to an education and professional career with relatively little support or guidance. So, for me, the bootstrap trajectory of my education and career would be my greatest professional accomplishment. If we're talking personal accomplishment, then it would be the fostering and other volunteer work I've done for dog rescue organizations. I'm most proud of that.

What goals do you have for the future?

Short term: to continue to lead our program and serve our college as we navigate challenges and changes ahead. As I travel the latter arc of my career, I am also looking forward to devoting myself more fully to animal rescue organizations and advocacy.

What is your favorite part about teaching?

The rewarding challenge of integrating research-based pedagogy with student-centered support.

Training teachers is like _____.

working the fields; it's not easy but the eventual bounty far exceeds the work

The three things I always keep in my desk/have in my teaching bag are:

Erasers....lots of erasers, post it's, and my "Chairperson" nametag (which I avoid wearing at all costs! lol)

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