LINDEN – Teaching English as a second language at a Linden High School, which boasts a diverse population and an International Baccalaureate program, has widened Eloy Delgado’s global perspective since he began his position there almost three years ago.
However, teaching in the Elite English Program at Kean University’s Wenzhou campus in China this summer was an experience that not only broadened those horizons, but will enrich the academic experience even further for his Linden High School pupils.
“I was attending a professional development conference when I ran into a former professor who asked me if I was interested in going to China,” said the Elizabeth resident, who has only traveled to the Dominican Republic and England.
“Things started happening rapidly,” said Delgado, who discovered that he learned in June that he had been selected to teach students enrolled in the program.
Designed to immerse and help improve the English skills of the Chinese students in a short period of time within a small group setting of no more than 14 students per class, the Elite English Program requires students to learn vocabulary in context, as well as various cultural customs of the United States.
Inviting students to focus on creative and critical thinking, Delgado also created authentic conversations for the students that were based on high-interest topics.
Core courses included effective writing, critical reading, listening comprehension, oral discourse, cultural literacy, and vocabulary development. Supplemental courses included pronunciation lab, “Watch & Learn (English television shows), “Learning by Heart,” social etiquette and more.
Kean University’s campus in Wenzhou has been constructed with an American-style design in order to offer Chinese students an authentic American experience set against the backdrop of Wenzhou’s mountainous region.
“At Linden High School and teaching English as a Second Language, I have encountered so many different students from various backgrounds and ethnicities,” said Delgado. “And, this was truly an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.”
Since he could not communicate in his students’ native Mandarin language, Delgado admitted that he felt like the tables had turned and made him the student. Soon, he was learning a new culture, a new way of life, and taking notes from those around him.
“People were always bumping into one another,” he recalled, noting that the population is so much larger than here in the United States.
“They also don’t like cold water,” he noted, adding that the temperature indicated on the dials was different there – blue indicated “very warm” and red meant “boiling.”
“They carry their own herbs to make tea,” remembered Delgado, “and they don’t drink soft drinks while eating.”
“Yet, this opportunity gave me such an appreciation for how different and how similar we really are,” he said.
“In China, you are expected to bargain for everything and it is considered rude if you don’t,” he added.
As the doors to Linden High School prepare to open for a new academic year, Delgado is enthusiastic about the lessons he will be able to impart to his ESL students based on his experiences in China.
He hopes to bring about more group conversations within the classroom about current and high-interest topics, and he believes his new-found appreciation for embracing new cultures and opportunities will spill over into their academic experience.
“It really opened my eyes,” said Delgado, who added that he has been appreciative of the support he has received from staff members at Linden High School since he embarked on his overseas teaching journey.
“You never know what kind of opportunities will knock on your door,” he said, noting that he has become inspired to learn new languages.
Danny A. Robertozzi, Linden superintendent of schools, said, “Delgado is a well-liked and respected member of our district faculty. Our students look up to him as a role model because they see he is compassionate and caring human being.”
“He uses creative and innovative ideas and technology to assist his students. He is totally committed to his profession and to our children,” he added.
When asked how Delgado’s participation in the program at Wenzhou should impact the academic experience for Linden High School students and his peers, Robertozzi commented, “As a district we are always happy when our teachers participate in extraordinary programs such as this.”
“Eloy Delgado will learn many things from this experience that he will bring back to our classrooms and share with our students and his colleagues,” he said. “It really is a wonderful opportunity for him and a benefit to our district.”