My path to ESCORT was a long and winding road that began when I was a student teacher. I went into education with the intent to teach Spanish and wound up acquiring a profound belief in the power of education. My student teaching was at Mission High School in San Francisco where I worked on a dropout retrieval program that helped at-risk students get a high school diploma while instilling in them hope for a better future. I was very moved by this experience and encountered for the first time the struggles and heartbreaks that inner city Latinos endure. For someone like me, who was brought up in the pleasant and protected suburbs of Michigan, this was a life-altering twist of fate.
I taught Spanish in both public and private schools for over 13 years, but I will never forget the students and faculty with whom I worked closely at Mission High School. I moved to Washington, DC and began volunteering at a variety of Hispanic agencies. A series of chance encounters led me to the Virginia Migrant Education Program where I tutored migrant (mostly Mexican) children and supported their families. I got "hooked" on this work that was so personally challenging and rewarding.
My career came full circle when I saw the ways in which the Migrant Education Program improves the lives of struggling, under-appreciated farmworkers who do such important and fundamental work for our society. I took courses in English as a second language (ESL) and found it irresistible.
I was invited to join ESCORT as a consultant and teacher trainer, specializing in research-based approaches to ESL. I have been with ESCORT for more than two decades and feel at home with a staff that believes deeply in what they do and in the empowering nature of education and advocacy. I authored a resource manual for primary and secondary mainstream teachers of English learners called Help! They Don't Speak English Starter Kits and have provided scores of workshops on a wide variety of topics.
Even though I was not initially aware of the seed that was planted in me at Mission High School, it has flowered into a career that provides me with a personally meaningful way to use the empowering aspects of education to give individuals choices and hope for a better future.
Pamela Wrigley is a specialist in English language learning and migrant education. She began her career as a secondary Spanish teacher and taught for 13 years in public and private schools. She has an extensive background in training teachers and developing resources in the area of research-based instruction and assessment. She has provided technical assistance to state and local educational agencies in all aspects of ESL and migrant program design, implementation, and evaluation. She helped to guide six states through the intensive comprehensive needs assessment (CNA) process, which facilitates improvement of data use, service delivery, and program evaluation.