Laura Augustyn

Teaching and ESL (English as a Second Language)

My passion for teaching began unexpectedly when I started helping immigrants as I wound my way through life. Starting with my mentor and friend Abdel H. Metwally who was originally from Egypt. He had a brilliant mind, education and professional demeanor; he even knew English when he arrived here in his thirties. But even with these qualities, people did not always take the patience to listen and understand him just because of his Arabic accent. I would notice that this would be a recurring theme with a lot of the immigrants that I met and subsequently helped. Abdel ended up writing three books which explained his life story and his beliefs. After that, people started to understand how truly intelligent this man really was.

Abdel has helped me so much in my life, especially during the period over 35 years ago when i felt lost and had little direction in my life. Then in 1981, he enabled me to find direction in life and a path to a new career. I may never be able to fully thank him for the valuable help he provided to me over the years, but if I can pass on even just a little of his wisdom that he gave me I know that will help to make the world a better place.

One of the ways I feel that I can carry on his legacy is to teach English as a Second Language - perhaps travel the world with my teaching abilities, in particular to Abdel's origins in the Middle East. I can only say that my visit to his beloved homeland of Egypt where I saw him for the final time changed my life immensely. The feeling that I had was an amazing spiritual feeling that I am proud to carry with me now daily. I returned to America with a renewed sense of purpose and an unquenchable thirst to learn about every detail of Egypt (the mother of the world) and to embrace and understand their culture and religions. It personified me as a new and changed person, as I found God, the Almighty, now guiding me.

In 2000 I was fortunate enough to meet who would become another friend for life - Juan Carlos. He is originally from Barcelona, Spain and was working as a busboy in a restaurant. When arriving in America, the only work he could find was a landscaper. However, he soon found that the restaurant business suited him more. He often would ask me how to say certain words in English so that he could take orders from customers. He rose from busboy, to waiter to Maître' D  and finally to a manager of this fine dining establishment right here in Stamford, CT. After spending several years in America, he returned to his homeland of Barcelona, Spain. He often says that he was my first student, teaching him English to help him while he was in America. He later went on to manage one of the top nightclubs in Barcelona. In 2008, I had the opportunity to visit Barcelona, another wonderful experience.

In 2001, shortly after 9/11, I was working at a hotel in New York. There I met Danny, who was born in Albania, the former Yugoslavia, but he moved here when he was 2 years old with his father, brother and sisters as his mother died overseas and they were seeking a new life in America. Through many trials and tribulations in his life, I was by his side to help him and guide him through it all. Sadly, he was deported back to Kosovo because of some immigration red tape and before he could return to America, he died from a heart attack at only 45 years of age.

All three of these men often told me how they appreciated every thing I did for them. But I say and know that I can never repay them for all that they taught and gave to me in learning the true heart and soul of what it means to be an immigrant in America. I saw and witnessed discrimination because of religion, I saw fun made of someone because of an accent, I saw injustice served as the USA sent someone back to a country where they didn't want to be and no longer knew anyone or felt like they belonged.

Throughout my hotel career, I notice that the immigrants were the ones that had the greatest work ethic and the most honesty. In 1986 I pre-opened the Super 8 Motel in Stamford, CT. My dream and goal of becoming a general manager of a hotel before i turned 30 came true. I was given an office through the labor department and encouraged to interview employees for the hotel. I decided to give a chance to the American residents who lived across the street in an affordable housing complex called Southfield Village. I tried my best to hire the best ones for the job; I was young and trusted everyone, after all, I was helping them by providing them employment. Not before long, I learned that my staff was selling the bedspreads and new items being sent to the hotel right down the street at a local bar. I also noticed TV sets just disappearing from the building. Finally, the cash deposits started to go missing from the safe. I had no choice but to terminate many employees. I was frustrated and put in long hours working at the front desk while managing on my own. One day, a gentleman from Bangladesh was delivering pizza and noticed that I had not slept in over 24 hours because i had been working at the hotel. I told Mohammad that I could not find honest people that valued gainful employment. He, in turn, sent me a crew of men from Bangladesh to work different shifts at the front desk. He ended up being my salvation as they were honest, trustworthy and great with customers. Their work ethic was exemplary - they would not say no to working nights or weekends. In time, I also learned that the housekeepers that were the best at their jobs were the ones that were immigrants. Mancita was a Haitian immigrant who once walked the highway to get to the hotel in a snowstorm to work rather than to miss her shift. Yolanda from Honduras met me 25 years later and remembered that I gave her an opportunity and ended up working with me at another property. The men from Bangladesh now own their own businesses, including a limo company and taxi service. They always remember me and I remember them.

These are the reasons I feel a calling to teach English as a Second Language. I substitute in the public schools and the children do not listen. I substitute in an ESL class and the students have respect and knowledge and a yen for learning. So this is my mission - to help those speak English to better themselves both here and abroad, to go where the people want to learn through education.