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This ESL Teacher is My Hero

When Marcella Jager and I met on LinkedIn we didn’t really hit it off. In our first interaction (that I remember) she asked for tips on using the EPA Vowel Chart because her students had trouble with the colors and multi-syllable words. I gave a lengthy response and I am embarrassed to admit, I was a bit snoody.

The next time Marcella commented on a post, we disagreed about music as a universal language.  We just didn’t seem to think the same way (which is fine) and I never expected to hear from her again. Imagine my shock on January 3, 2019 when there was a message from Marcella in my inbox. Here is our exchange:

Marcella  9:07 AM Good morning Judy – I am interested in ordering a set of your Backpacker’s series – how might I do this?

Judy My daughter lives in your city, I’m visiting her next week and I can bring some or I can mail some. Alternatively, they can be purchased from Amazon.ca If you order them from Amazon you can post a review on Amazon.  Which do you prefer?

Marcella I think I will order on Amazon and have them sent to my work address. Thank-you so much for your offer though! I look forward to reading them and sharing them.

Judy   Stay in touch.

My small self wondered if Marcella was politely blowing me off. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

A Wonderful Valentine for All of Us

February 14, 2019

Marcella Just finished reading backpacker’s guide – Pronunciation today – so glad I did. A good review! And love the Venn diagrams for missing L1 sounds! So much clearer to use this visual than writing them down in their notes. Thank-you so much for writing this. Also, still admittedly not good at helping students remember the colours for each word with same spelling but diff. sound: – meat is green, but tread is red – how can they remember all of this? Your colour chart is amazing, and it is soo helpful for difficult sounds for my students – but I cannot bridge that well to all the different spellings (English is crazy – I use the title of your original book all the time!

Marcella is clearly committed to grasping the system but she isn’t there yet.

The Penny Drops

In the evening of the same day, February 14, (they are small booklets) Marcella sent:

Just read backpacker’s book 2 on Conversation. and I realized that students must file words away in a color file – as you said – that is the only way – and it now makes sense to me!

I’ve been teaching stress like you have but the linking!!! I have always avoided full lessons on that as other books made it sooo complicated – but your system is so simple – Bravo! and Thank-you.

I am impressed with Marcella for two main reasons:

1) She persevered.

Marcella intuitively knew there was value for her students in the EPA Vowel Chart. She spent $14.95 for each booklet in the Backpacker’s Guide to Teaching English trilogy and persisted until she figured out how to teach Pronunciation to them.

2) She had the courage to share her learning process with me and with you.

I believe the story of Marcella’s smarts, determination and courage will help #ESL teachers and countless learners everywhere.

Thank you, Marcella, you are my hero.

Judy Thompson

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