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Teaching English in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Bogotá

As an undergrad at Wesleyan University, Robert Roth majored in philosophy, studied music, and sang in an a cappella group. It wasn’t until his senior year that he discovered a passion and talent for teaching.

Wesleyan students were running a tutoring program for campus janitors, and a twice a week, Roth helped a 60-year old man from Colombia improve his English. The experience benefited them both.
“It spurred my interest in teaching English as a Second Language,” Roth says. “After graduation I went right into the New York City Teaching Fellows program.” That highly selective program brings talented college graduates into high-need local classrooms.

After a summer of training, Roth was assigned to teach ESL in a North Bronx elementary school. He describes that experience as a “trial by fire,” explaining, “I suddenly became a full-time teacher, responsible for 32 students who spoke four different languages.”

Fortunately, he received a lot of support from a mentor and the school’s administrators. And through the Teaching Fellows’ partnership with Hunter, he was able to pursue his MA at the School of Education – where what he learned in both theory and practice “proved directly applicable to my own teaching.”

In a summer program led by Hunter Professor Laura Baecher, Roth taught English at a Costa Rican university, spurring his further interest in working with students abroad. Now he looks forward to his Fulbright year at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

He hopes that when he returns to New York, he can return to his latest post – teaching ESL at Brooklyn’s P.S. 1, a large elementary school in Sunset Park. “They recently implemented a co-teaching ESL model,” Roth says. “The co-teachers built strong relationships, and it was really inspiring to see that model in place.”

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