When I arrived here in the United States in 2009 I had no idea what the holiday Thanksgiving was all about. It has never been celebrated in the Philippines, and I don’t remember any of my teachers in school discussing the topic. It was my husband who gave me a crash course on the significance of this holiday. As he was busy playing chef in the kitchen, I remember him explaining to me how the Native Americans and the Pilgrims came together in a feast to give thanks. Since then celebrating Thanksgiving has become a tradition with our small family. My husband always prepares the same meal every year: mashed potatoes, corn, beans, Hawaiian Rolls, pumpkin pie covered with Cool Whip, and, of course, turkey. I, on the other hand, will always set the table and clean the dishes afterwards. I am truly thankful for this division of labor because I am sure our Thanksgiving dinner would be a disaster, considering my appalling expertise in cooking (no kidding).
“Every person is gifted in some area. We just have to find out what.” – Evelyn Blose Holman
Seven years later I found myself in front of my three classes, retelling the same story of the first Thanksgiving to my ESL students. I thought it was surreal. I’ve always dreamed of teaching in a college or university even when I was in my native country. Deep down secretly I never thought that one day I would make that dream come true – here in the US, at a respected state college. I have a lot of things to be grateful for. I am thankful for my life; my family, especially my wonderful husband; my new graduate degree and the opportunities it has unlocked for me this year, especially my college instructor’s position.
Every time I attend my ESOL classes, I see myself in my students. Some of them have been in the country for many years, some have just arrived. Like me, as when I first came, they are full of hope that one day they’ll fulfill their American dream. I can see it in their eyes; I can feel it every time they struggle to communicate in broken English. In hindsight, you may think that my role as an instructor is just to teach my students the new language skills, (speaking, listening, reading, and writing) they need in order to function and assimilate in their new country. However, it is more than that.
Every time I assume my solemn role as an educator and stand before my classes, I feel that I have a vital mission: an obligation to encourage and inspire my students to believe that their present state doesn’t define their future. Learning a language is a process; it takes time. Dreams do come true, however, and no matter how challenging their situations are, I need to reinforce an understanding and a belief that their struggles are just temporary. With tenacity, persistence, and resilience, any goal can be obtained in America. This mission is what makes me excited to go to work every day. I have found my purpose, and, I must say, on this Thanksgiving day, this is what I am most thankful for.
“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.”- Rusty Berkus