“Because my first language is not English, I am already experienced in second language acquisition.”
Gracelyn Li moved to Chicago from Guangzhou, China, with her family when she was in elementary school after several years of traveling between the two countries. She remembers just how difficult it was to learn a new language while adapting to a new homeland. Her teachers did the best they could with the tools they had, but she knows that modern instructional techniques are much more effective. She’s eager to graduate and start using them.
“I want to become an elementary teacher in the Chicago Public Schools or a suburban public school,” says Li, who is earning a master’s degree in elementary education and endorsements in English as a second language (ESL) and bilingual-bicultural education. “I want to focus on those students who just moved to the U.S. or for whom English is not their first language. I want to help them through the gap between their native language and the English language.” She feels so strongly about giving back that she already volunteers as an ESL instructor at several nonprofit organizations and plans to continue with her volunteer work after she graduates.
Li is the recipient of the John and Justina Tzeng Scholarship, which supports talented graduate students in the College of Education who have financial need. She plans to emulate the Tzengs someday.
“Seeing many of the injustices of educational privilege in Chicago is a constant motivation for me to be a leader in the classroom. I want to help those underprivileged people who don’t have many resources,” she says. “When I become a teacher, I will do that. I will donate to DePaul.”
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