English as a Second Language

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Priscilla Butler

Priscilla Butler


I didn’t think I would become an ESL teacher. I planned to teach English, but in high school I volunteered for the public library to help immigrants learn to read. We had a 20-hour training program, and I remember talking with our instructor afterward. She told me, “You’d be surprised. Once you teach ESL, you don’t want to stop.” I didn’t think much of it then but found out later how true it was.

I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. While there, I tutored in the Writing Center and taught Freshman Composition classes, where I worked with many international and resident non-native students. It was a lot of fun! I decided that after so many years in school, I wanted to have some non-school-based learning experiences. What better way to get them than to live and work in a foreign country? I chose Asia as my goal and searched for a job teaching English. I had interviews for positions in Korea, China, Vietnam, and Japan, but a Japanese school was the first to make me an offer. For little other reason than good timing, Japan is where I ended up going. It was also where I met my husband, but that’s a story for another day.

So, there I was in Japan, thinking I would stay for a year. I ended up staying for six-and-a-half years, separated into two stints, punctuated by a sojourn back to the states to complete a Ph.D. in TESOL at New York University. As it turned out, I had fully caught the bug.

I have taught in many contexts: in Japan, for companies, government offices, junior high school, and, my longest assignment, as instructor and Coordinator of the Intensive English Program at Kwansei Gakuin University. In the U.S., I taught at Cal Poly, New York University, San Jose State University, and Stanford, but my longest teaching experiences have been in the California Community College system. After returning from Japan, I was an adjunct faculty member for 7 years and immersed myself in the freeway flyer culture, in addition to some temporary full-time gigs. I taught at De Anza College, Foothill College, West Valley College, Mission College, San Jose City College, and Evergreen Valley College—thank goodness not all at once. I also had a short but interesting professional diversion when I decided to try another profession for a while, completed the San Jose Police Academy, and worked as a sworn officer for a few months before realizing that teaching really suited me a whole lot more.

After all of that, it is nice to be settled! I have been teaching as a full-time faculty member in the credit side of SBBC since 2007, and I love it! My colleagues and students are a lot of fun to work with, and I enjoy the range of classes that we offer. There is usually something new I can try!

I am one of those strange creatures who truly enjoys thinking about policy and how systems are structured. This has led me to be very active in the college, usually belonging to four or more committees per semester plus attendance at a number of other college groups. Being able to be involved in this way adds variety to my day and makes me happy. I like coming to work!

Some people may think I am a workaholic, but this is not the case. As my colleagues know, I consider Saturday and Sunday sacred and avoid bringing work home then. I make exceptions for TESOL or another critical professional conference, but my kids and husband know that the weekends are all about them. I have a seven-year-old daughter, Maya, and a soon-to-be five-year-old son, Sage. As I write this, I am breaking my own rule and doing it on the weekend. I told my daughter that I am writing about her, and she said, “Yeahh!! But don’t tell them any embarrassing stuff!” Okay, her secrets are safe, but now you know a few of mine. Call or email me anytime during the week; I’m often at school from early morning until LATE at night, but it will be hard to catch me on the weekend. : )

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