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  • Andrea Juarez

Lorelei Anselmo helps international students overcome language barriers

Five years ago, Calgarian Lorelei Anselmo decided to quit her career as a financial analyst and become an English instructor.


When Anselmo moved to a French speaking community in Montreal with her family, she realized a problem: people assumed everyone spoke both English and French, but they actually didn’t.


“I found out that there were many people that didn’t speak English, didn’t want to speak English and didn’t saw the value in learning another language.”


Anselmo noticed that people were embarrassed to learn English because everyone thought they spoke it.


Having a German father and a Mexican mother, Anselmo had to learn a lot of languages, which made her develop a joy for learning about other cultures and traveling.


Anselmo decided to work as an English Instructor of the English as a Second Language Program at the University of Calgary in July 2012, after having worked as a financial analyst for five years and taken care of her children for 10 years.


While her kids were young, Anselmo went to night classes in order to get a teaching certificate and then a Masters in Education.


“I decided I wanted to do something that I really enjoy, which is traveling, speaking to people, and learning languages.”


Being able to teach someone else another language and a new way to communicate with others means a lot to Anselmo.


“I feel like I’m helping them to be aware about different cultures, and it sounds strange but I feel like I’m helping them to be better citizens, more tolerant and more accepting to people.”


“She treated us fairly and taught us with enthusiasm,” says Rika Ikeda, a Japanese student from the 2015 fall semester of the University of Calgary’s ESL program.


Anselmo says that watching the students getting to know each other and becoming friends is one of the best experiences she has ever had.


“At the beginning of the term, they’re really shy with each other. And at the end, they’re all friends and everyone’s having a good time. “


“That’s my favourite part”.


Because there are a lot of students from all around the world, Anselmo felt the effects of cultural shock one time with one of her students from Korea.


She says the student went to class for a couple of weeks and while everyone was becoming close to each other, the student suddenly withdrew from the class, and then the whole program.


The staff at the University tried to email, call him and bring him back to class, but he was unhappy because he couldn’t get used to dramatic changes such as the weather and food.


For Anselmo, it was really sad.


“I would like to know what I could’ve done different in order to make the student stay,” Anselmo reflects.


The thing Anselmo enjoys the most is learning from student experiences.


“I love to know why they came here, what their goals are and how can I help them achieve their goals or anything else.”


Anselmo likes to see what she can do in order to help students achieve their English or even life goals because a lot of the students who go to the University to study English only are really young and are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.


“Any doubt someone has, she’ll always clarify it,” says Ana Lucia Garcia, a current student of the 2017 winter ESL program from Venezuela.


“It was an unforgettable experience. She’s one the best teachers I’ve ever had in the English Program,” Garcia remarks.


Because the majority of the students study for a semester only, Anselmo says is difficult getting close to students and then having to say goodbye.


“I have them every day in class, and after the course ends, I wonder where they are, how they’re doing and if they’re having success.”


“I’m so happy for Facebook because I connect with some of my students that way.”


She comments that sometimes she meets up with her students who continue living in Calgary.


Anselmo is currently teaching beginner level grammar and advanced reading and vocabulary classes at the University of Calgary.


She says that Reading and Vocabulary is the most difficult subject to teach because she has to teach critical thinking and reading skills, unlike grammar, which is more complete.


“She’s a very happy and open person, so it wasn’t hard to talk to her,” says Maria Virginia Garrido, a Venezuelan student of the 2015 Fall Semester program.


“She’s an instructor that I’ll never forget, she was like a mom for me because she always took care of me,” Garrido remarks.


“In a few words, she’s a super teacher. She’s very close to her students, and is even aware of student’s birthdays,” says Juan Pena, a Venezuelan student of the 2016 fall Semester ESL program.


“ If she ever bakes a cake at home, she brings it to class. She’s the best,” Pena adds.


Anselmo says she likes the University of Calgary’s English as a Second Language program and thinks it’s really good for students and instructors.


She recently started taking student teachers, so now she’s able to teach not only English students but also future ESL teachers.


Anselmo loves her career because apart from being able to work in the morning and having free time to spend with her family in the afternoon, she helps other people.


“I would recommend it for everyone, especially if you like to talk to people and you like learning about people’s different cultures.”

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