TESOL interns learn life lessons while teaching English

Chrissy Dennis | Oct 29, 2012
Briercrest's China internship team: (L to R) Jordanna McNally, Joie Han, team leader Jenny Shepherd, Alicia Epps, Jenn Rupke, and Greg Smth. Briercrest's China internship team: (L to R) Jordanna McNally, Joie Han, team leader Jenny Shepherd, Alicia Epps, Jenn Rupke, and Greg Smth.Briercrest's China internship team: (L to R) Jordanna McNally, Joie Han, team leader Jenny Shepherd, Alicia Epps, Jenn Rupke, and Greg Smth.

Last summer, Briercrest’s two TESOL teams learned some of the same lessons – even though their internship sites were over 5,000 miles apart.

Every year, the TESOL program (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) sends groups of students on internships to different parts of the world to teach English and develop their skills as teachers. This year there were two internships: one in the U.K. and one in China.

”Why teach English in England?”

That question was frequently asked of the students who went did their internship in the U.K.

The four TESOL interns partnered with Operation Mobilization in Halesowen, England to teach English to potential missionaries and help to equip them for service around the world. The ability to communicate in English is considered an asset, as well as a tool toward effective ministry evangelism. The U.K. team consisted of four TESOL students in their final year: Jayme Adams, Ashley McLaren, Hannah Sims and Courtney Wiebe.  

Because the class was filled with future missionaries, the interns had the unique experience of teaching an entire class of students who were all Christians.

“It was such an honour to be able to study the Bible and grow with my students in and out of the classroom,” McLaren stated. “What a privilege it is to pray with my students before I begin teaching.”

The team’s students came from South Korea, Finland and Brazil. Despite the cultural differences, the team was encouraged by their common ground.

“They persevered through tiredness and culture shock and shared the love of Jesus to all those they encountered despite the language barrier,” Sims recalled. “I was particularly encouraged to see how selflessly they ministered and the hours of work they put into the preparations they had to do.”

The four aspiring teachers from Briercrest were able to see God at work in the lives of their students as they served alongside them in ministry settings, but  they found God worked in their own hearts as well.

McLaren was apprehensive upon entering this internship and doubted her calling as a teacher. As the internship progressed she began to see the path God had paved for her toward becoming a teacher.

“I wanted to be living in every minute and absorbing all of the opportunities that God gave me,” she said.

Sims also had fears, but learned that “when I’m walking in surrender and obedience to (God), there is no room for fear because He is so faithful.”

Wiebe’s experience in the U.K. was a crucial time to learn the depths of God’s love. She remembers being in church and relating to the message when the pastor began to speak of people who did not feel worthy of God’s love.

“He just poured His love upon me in a way I had never experienced before, and all that feeling of unworthiness that I didn’t even know was there was gone, and all the burdens that I had were lifted.”

By the end of their internship, the four Briercrest students felt affirmed in their calling to become teachers.

“The God that I knew going into my internship was drastically different from the God I knew coming out of it,” Adams said.

The China internship team consisted of five third-year TESOL students. The group was in the Sichuan region which had been devastated by an earthquake in 2008.

Within that region, Alisha Epp, Joie Han, Jordana McNally, Jennifer Rupke and Greg Smith were based in Dujiangyan, a city that wants to train a new generation of teachers.

The team taught English to Chinese teachers who had only taught English by speaking Chinese. The goal was to give these teachers skills to be able to teach English by speaking English.

The Briercrest students were not allowed to speak the name of Christ in the classroom, but they were committed to represent Him through their actions in the classroom.

“In our eyes our ministry was to build relationships with our students,” Smith said. “We saw this as planting seeds in their lives.”

As the team continued to teach in their classrooms, they were able to witness God at work in a different kind of way.

“Throughout our internship, we were planting seeds and sowing into the lives of the people around us,” Epp said.

Rupke was able to speak briefly about the birth of Jesus Christ and the true Christmas story during a cultural lesson about North American Christmas. After the lesson, one of Rupke’s students eagerly announced this was the first time she had heard about the baby Jesus.

“The Lord is using us in ways that we think are insignificant to tell people about Jesus,” Rupke reflected.

During a conversation McNally had with one of her students, she was asked what she believed was the secret to true happiness.

“I felt like the Lord was telling me to share an experience from my life where I lost someone very dear and very precious,” she said. “I explained that in the midst of having a circumstance where everything that you think is important is taken away from you – maybe you don’t have happiness in that circumstance but you have joy.”

God was not only at work in the lives of these Chinese students; He was also working in the hearts of the team themselves.

Han had a student in her class who was often distracted and didn’t interact well.

“After a few days of frustration, God spoke to me that He also loves her as much as He loves me,” Han said. “He showed me how immeasurable his love is for us and how fast I could easily have plugged my ears to God’s voice.”