My mother is an American girl, even if she is born in Laos and grew up selling soda and papaya salad in the refugee camps. America touched her life. Her oldest brothers fiought under General Vang Pao and the Secret Guerilla Units. Some of her brother taught English in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp. She knew America even before she immigrated to Manitowac, Wisconsin in December of 1979. While she went to school in a small all-white town, her ESL teachers projected their voices to the students of Hmong descendants, as if they were deaf. From this experience, my mother has now been serving the Milwaukee Public Schools as an English as a Second Language instructor.
My mom applied to over 30+ teaching jobs. She sought position in Wausau/Eau Claire/Madison/Sheboygan School districts, all were predominantly White. She got rejected because her employers did not want a “broken English” instructor. No matter how well she taught and that language is not one type, they declined her. She never gave up. One factor for her career was because other womyn of color in the ESL department of MPS fought for affirmative action, mom was hired. And to this day, mom shares her struggles for survival. Her face lights up when she meets her former students and their families anywhere. Her life warms up when students and their families welcome her to their celebrations. Most of her students say they would like to become teachers someday. This is why mom won’t retire even after she has retired. She’ll continue to teach and learn.