Helen Merriman– ESL

Claudia Anaya

“Every one has a right to an education,” said Helen Merriman, 60, professor of English as a second language and soon to be retired as full-time instructor.

Since 1981, as a part-time teacher and since 1986 as a full-time professor, Merriman has taught English to people of many different backgrounds.

“People who come to this country, who have a dream of succeeding, have a welcome place to come to where they can learn English,” said Merriman.

At the college, “they can learn writing, computer skills, job skills and they can do it all for free. Not every community college has that capability and not every place is like California where we have a big community college system,” said Merriman speaking of the non-credit program.

Merriman believes that the college has a lot of respect for its non-credit program, serving the community and getting people ready to succeed in life.

“People come for the American Dream and GCC actually provides for people to achieve that,” said Merriman.

Koreans, Armenians, Hispanics, Lebanese, and Syrians are some of the various ethnicities that Merriman has taught over the years.

“What you have to know is how the languages interfere with each other,” said Merriman, “So, when a student makes a mistake, you understand that it’s coming from a translation from their language.”

“Teaching is something that you have to do from your heart and it’s going to wear you out, but there is a lot of reward in teaching,” said Merriman.

“It’s not an easy job like most people think it is. You get tired, you get busy and frustrated. You teach 24 hours a day, and even when you go home, you still have a lot to do, but there is a lot of reward in teaching.”

“Don’t ever give up,” Merriman advises students. “Stay focused on what you want and keep trying; even if you fail five times keep trying. Know what your goals are and keep trying.”