Student Stories

Nou Ly

Learning from her Past: Nou Ly, Initial Licensure ’15 MA-ESL ’17

 Nou Ly, Initial Licensure ’15 and Master of Arts in English as a Second Language (MA-ESL) ’17, had a difficult time as a K-12 student—as an English language learner growing up in a non-English speaking household but still under pressure to excel, the homework hotline was her best friend, she said.

Those difficulties are ones that English language learners face every day—something that Ly knows well. Through the struggles of her childhood, she has found a passion for and a career in being an ESL teacher.

Ly started out working as a first grade paraprofessional and licensed substitute teacher at a charter school in Saint Paul. After two years, she knew she wanted to take the next steps to becoming a full-time licensed teacher.

That’s where Hamline’s MAT initial licensure program came in. Ly knew she wanted to specialize in ESL, so Hamline’s program peaked her interest right away. By the time she finished her initial licensure, she knew she wanted to make a greater commitment to the field; she entered Hamline’s MA-ESL program.

“I felt that the degree would benefit me as far as gaining a more in-depth understanding of the field of ESL,” Ly said. “It’ll also open the door for more opportunities someday should I decide to explore other opportunities outside the realm of teaching K-12 students.”

Ly is also a part of Hamline’s Teaching Fellows—a program for teachers who self-identify as persons of color or Native American dedicated to diversifying the teaching workforce. The diversity mission is one close to Ly’s heart.

“I think it’s important to provide support and be inclusive of teachers of color and the different experiences they bring to the table,” Ly said. “Not only should schools provide culturally responsive classrooms, there should be a culturally responsive atmosphere for all staff members. Knowledge is power, and acknowledging that something needs to be done is a good first step.”

Ly believes the Teaching Fellows program makes a true difference for not only teachers but students as well. “Even acknowledging that there is a deficit is a great start,” she said. “Schools are so diverse now in student population that it is empowering for these same students to see teachers, people of authority, who look like them too.”

An aspect of Hamline’s Initial Licensure program that Ly finds extremely beneficial is the co-teaching model that the program follows, which she said really helped in her preparation for classroom collaboration.

“The idea of co-teaching is still a new concept for some veteran teachers,” Ly said. “It’s important to keep in mind that we have the students’ interests at heart and collaboration is key to ensuring our students get the content as well as the language acquisition they need in order to be successful.”

The field of ESL holds a soft spot for Ly. As an English learner herself, she knows the academic struggles her students face daily—acutely knows them, in fact, as she described her own time as a student as “brutal.” But being able to think back on those difficulties is what enforces for Ly the importance of her job and reassures her when she faces the challenge of making academic connections with her students.

“The most impactful moment for me is when students make a connection to their learning and the light bulb comes on—it’s a moment that reinforces why teachers do what they do,” she said.

To learn more about Hamline’s Initial Licensure and Master of Arts in English as a Second Language programs, visit the School of Education website or contact Graduate Admission.