English for Refugees Fellowship Poised to Enter Its Second Year

Posted on April 2, 2018

In 2017 the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program at Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies launched the English for Refugees Fellowship. In partnership with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), the fellowship places TESOL students in refugee centers across the country. The students teach for an academic year, while continuing online study with Marlboro’s Master of Art in TESOL program.

Program chair Bev Burkett, and English for Refugee Fellows Anita Hellman and Marcus Jones


The first year of the program was a success. Lee Willimans, Vice President as USCRI said “ We have received a universal thumbs up ... regarding the positive experience in working with Marlboro College and the value your students have added to our roster of programs and services. In fact, I’m sure many of our other sites would be interested in collaborating should there be student interest in those locations.”


The Fellows also expressed their enthusiasm for the program. Emily Engott, spoke about one moment that really sticks with her from her teaching.

English for Refugees Fellow Emily Engott


I’ll never forget this one really beautiful moment in my teaching.  My heart still swells when I think about it. During one of the classes I held in December, I had a Nepali-speaking interpreter come to my class to explain a family-building program she was running for refugees and immigrants in the area.  One of my students, an older woman from Nepal, seized the opportunity to talk to the interpreter and get her opinions about my class translated and the interpreter then relayed to me all that my student had said. Before coming to the U.S., my student had never been to school and had never learned to read or write in her own native Nepali, but she absolutely loved coming to my class.  “Even if I only learn one word per class, I am happy,” she said. “I wish I could go to English class every day. I love it.”


Emily went on to explain the impact that being an English for Refugees Fellow has had on her teaching.


One of the hallmarks of the Marlboro education is the cultivation of mindfulness.  I think that far too often we allow our minds to become kidnapped from the present by an infinite number of distractions, from the phones vibrating in our pockets to our intravenous to-do lists.  When we don’t show up in our lives, we become starved for the gifts that are there waiting for us in every moment. In the refugee classroom, I’m surrounded by people who, despite having lived through unbearable trauma, are brave enough to show up and bear their grateful hearts on a daily basis.  Being able to teach these people is such an indescribable honor. I’ve had experiences with each one of my students where they have held up a mirror and forced me to look at myself not only as a teacher, but as a whole person, and evaluate how I can be a better and more grateful servant to others.  Through the Marlboro program and the fellowship, I’ve come to the conclusion that teaching is, very simply, mindfully serving others.


English for Refugees fellow Anita Hellman explained how her experience working in the USCRI refugee center contributed to her “holistic” education at Marlboro.


English for Refugees Fellow Anita Hellman

The opportunity to teach refugees has been a humbling experience, and one that has been enriched by my simultaneous studies as a graduate student in Marlboro’s MA TESOL program. The structure of the program allows for learning that is both deep and holistic. I can’t help but feel like every aspect of my life has been held and explored within the reflective space nurtured by our professors and within the educational community of Marlboro. With much nurturance comes much growth—and there are so many layers of learning! Our studies are one piece, and our practical experience is another. Being an English language fellow has allowed me to work within a more social context, and I already feel that I have learned so much about advocacy, teaching and learning, and refugee resettlement. As a friend of mine once said, “Community is the new currency.” Come join us!

Marlboro is looking forward to the second cohort of English for Refugees Fellows who will join the TESOL program this spring.

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Kelsa Summer, Assistant Director for Graduate and Professional Studies