Carly Block sort of stumbled into the world of English as a Second Language (ESL) by accident. It was never her plan to be a teacher, let alone an ESL teacher. But then a spontaneous trip to China with her father and sister introduced her to the very distinct world of ESL teachers and their lifestyle. Never having even heard of ESL, she was intrigued and sought out work teaching English in China. Little did she know that that particular experience would completely change her life path. Having been educated in hospitality and management, Carly had no plans of being a teacher. But things change, and to quote Robert Frost, sometimes taking “the road less traveled makes all the difference in the world.” Carly has been working at Bridge for a year now and has recently taken on the arduous task of being in charge of teacher scheduling, a task I would not wish upon my worst enemies. However, since she has taken over, everything has been running as smooth as silk, or as milk chocolate, a delicacy Ms. Block also loves to partake in, especially when given to her by her students.
AB: Carly, tell me about yourself.
CB: I am originally from Colorado. I went to Colorado State University and earned a business degree. After graduation, I spent about five years traveling around the states doing different jobs in hotel management and hospitality. I lived in the Virgin Islands, Arizona, Minnesota and some other places. Then my Dad asked me and my sister if we wanted to go to China with him, so of course we said yes. We were ready for a change and an adventure. We traveled around with my Dad for three weeks and then he left and my sister and I stayed and traveled for six more months. We climbed the Himalayas and went to Cambodia and Vietnam. During our travels, I met many people who were teaching ESL. To tell the truth, I had no idea that people actually did that. So, I did some research and decided to take a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course in China. I got a job three days after I finished the course in a city called Zhu Hi. And that is how I got involved in the world of ESL.
AB: What has your teaching experience been like?
CB: When I was in China, I taught ages five through teens and I also taught an after school program which was really fun. Throughout that year I learned something useful everyday and I learned a new Mandarin word everyday also. I made some good friends with the locals. In my free time, I used to go to these big tea fields and just hang out. I explored many parts of China and I ate a lot of noodles and rice. I really enjoyed teaching the kids. They were so sweet and excited about learning. They actually learned a lot and with me as their teacher they had the opportunity to actually speak, which normally they did not. It turns out that I enjoyed my experience so much in China that, as soon as I came back to the states, I enrolled in school to get my Masters in elementary education.
AB: What do you like about teaching ESL and what are some of the most challenging parts, fun parts, etc?
CB: One of the most challenging parts is that there are so many different countries and everyone has specific needs. For example, the Japanese are really good at grammar but lack speaking practice and then there are the Brazilians who maybe do not have that much practice in grammar but love to speak. Every culture has its own distinct ways of life and learning.
AB: You have a new position at Bridge. Can you tell me more about that?
CB: Well, I am the new schedule coordinator and so I am basically the liaison between the students and the teachers, the students and the classrooms and the teachers and the classrooms. I make the teachers’ schedules, which is basically a full time job. All of the teachers have specific hours that they keep or vacation time or time that they need off, so keeping up with all of that is a lot of work but I like the new challenges and opportunities to make Bridge run more smoothly and to make students and teachers happy, which is not always an easy task.
AB: What are your future plans?
CB: After I complete my Masters degree. I plan to get an elementary teaching job here in Denver and, if for some reason I can’t, then I will try to get a job at an international school teaching elementary.
AB: What is your favorite part about Bridge?
CB: There are so many different cultures and everyone learns from each other. Students learn from teachers but the teachers learn from the students also. When you teach English as a foreign language you know when a student suddenly understands something almost out of the blue. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside to know that I have made an impact on people’s lives. And sometimes students bring me chocolate! I really like that. Bridge is such a dynamic place to work, full of fun and interesting people. The community of teachers coupled with the experience I am getting makes it a great environment to work.