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They said it: Learn about an ELL teacher, her time abroad, and her impact on students

Ellen Jorgenson teaches health and civics to Level 1 and 2 English Language Learners at Lincoln North Star High School. Below are highlights from a recent LPS Podcast featuring her teaching and educational background, including a two-year stay in Tanzania as part of the Peace Corp. You can listen to the entire interview at on the LPS website, or on iTunes.

On finding a common language among many languages

"A lot of it is breaking down and finding reading, writing and speaking opportunities that are simple but still content rich, which is difficult to do. Luckily with something like civics, there is something relatable from their own countries. They all understand government, they all understand how government works to some extent. So that's a really nice ace point I like to use, no matter where they are from."

On joining the Peace Corp

"I wanted to do the Peace Corp since I was 18 years old, and I found the opportunity to do it while getting my Masters (degree) simultaneously. ... My Masters is in international development, with an emphasis on education and health. So I took all the courses beforehand and then while I was there (Tanzania), my Masters thesis was about women's empowerment in education and health, and I conducted a women's empowerment conference. That whole conference was part of a paper and thesis.”

On the challenge of 'new'

“I myself was put in the uncomfortable, challenging position of being in a new country, a totally different culture, a new language, not knowing anybody, and being forced to jump all in. Even things like missing a burger and a salad, and knowing that my students everyday miss their home country, and the food, and the people, and how difficult it is to learn a new language. For me it's developed a deeper level of empathy for my students.”

On being a tall, white woman in Tanzania

“A few places I was the first one, but for the most part, no ... The name of a white person or foreigner was Mzungu, and I was named Mzungu all the time. But I also, again, back to relationships, tried to become part of the community, and was given the name Asha. And so pretty soon after I got there, and I was given the name, I became Asha, and became part of the community that way. So I was no longer, Mzungu. Some people in the community would say 'No, no, no, she's not Mzungu. Do not call her that. This our daughter, Asha.’ So that was a neat memory but it still sustains itself.”

On similarities of people

"We all laugh the same way."

ELL teacher has relatable experiences of living and learning abroad


Published: February 20, 2017, Updated: February 20, 2017