Life + Arts

ESL teacher finds passion in helping international students learn English

The sound in Anna Hood’s classroom is a combination of accents from all corners of the world.

Hood, a program manager for the Language and Culture Center, teaches an intensive English course for the many international students that the University attracts. Every year, the Language and Culture Center brings more than 400 students from several countries in Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

For Hood, learning about cultures and traveling is second nature. Her upbringing is filled with memories of her parents encouraging her and her sister to be open to other cultures, especially the food and the people themselves.

“Coming from a city like Houston, I find diversity normal and interesting,” Hood said.

Hood’s passion for inspiring students to achieve their goals drives her everyday, but she didn’t always know that this what was she wanted to do as a career. Hood attended a small liberal arts college in North Carolina where she majored in English and minored in Spanish.

During her undergraduate education, Hood chose classes that were geared toward education and took up volunteering to teach English skills to new immigrants.

“It wasn’t until I had several jobs that I finally realized that I could teach English to international students and adults, and that it could be a career and not just a volunteer position,” Hood said.

Hood’s story of studying or working abroad is not just an enriching experience for college students, but can also be a launch pad for future career endeavors.

“I taught English in Madrid, Spain for a year, and when I came back, I thought, ‘This is what I want to be doing,’ ” Hood said.

Hood went on to get her Masters in Foreign Language Education at the University of Texas and, in 2009, started teaching at UH.

Her passion to provide an amazing study-abroad experience for new students is what keeps her motivated everyday. She also encourages and mentors students who are deciding to pursue a career in ESL.

“Working with Anna is what inspired me to teach English as a career,” said Megan Hawthorne, a French senior who has worked in the LCC for one year and plans to teach English in France after graduating.

Now in her fifth year here, Hood looks forward to many more years of inspiring international students, pushing students to realize their potential and encouraging them to follow their dreams.

“It is rewarding to know I am apart of these students’ experience and that I am contributing to an excellent program,” Hood said.

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  • A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook, “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More,” helps foreigners benefit from a better understanding, and that includes our language. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it even has chapters on English grammar and speech that identify the key problems common to foreigners (and Americans!) and how they can polish their communication skills.
    Why is English such a monster to learn?
    Here’s an excerpt from the book: “As you may know, English grammar rules
    are full of generalities and the generalities are full of exceptions. Even the
    exceptions have exceptions. This is why English is one of the most difficult
    languages to master.” The book (and e-book) is filled with tips anyone can
    use to polish their speech and understand the key basics of English. Probably the
    number one problem foreigners have is not slowing down when speaking English,
    followed by pronouncing consonants.
    As the book points out, foreigners may think they know English but in many cases they have difficulty communicating to Western ears because of the common problems most have. For example, it points out that if Spanish speakers learn to pronounce the TH sound in English correctly instead of like the DA sound, it will significantly reduce their accent. And Indians must learn to slow down, simple yet effective tips like this. However, most struggle in their efforts and need guidance. Perhaps native speakers and books like this can extend a helping hand. Good luck to all learners!

  • Thank You Nikki, for bringing light to service from a human angle perspective. Beautifully written and deeply encouraging.

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