He wanted to do something meaningful in retirement, so Oskar Back decided to teach classes in English as a second language at Centro San Juan Diego in Denver.
Oskar Back, a retired technical writer, was searching for an opportunity that would be “more meaningful than watching Gunsmoke reruns in retirement,” he said.
A conversation with a friend of Centro San Juan Diego*, a program that helps people, and an introduction to Juan Carlos, Centro’s former director, sealed the deal for Back and his wife, Suzy, nearly two years ago.
Back’s teaching background in creative writing, as well as his experience growing up with immigrant parents, also played into his decision.
The couple began teaching a class together in the evenings, but after the first semester, Back decided to teach alone in the mornings, fueled by the daylight and more energy.
“I love my teaching experience," Back said. "I feel welcome and appreciated. I look forward to teaching, and I take my teaching very seriously.
"(I'm) impressed by the speed at which my students learn English, compared to the progress I’m making trying to learn Spanish,” he said.
Their motivation to learn is fueled by the fact that English can help them obtain jobs and fulfill the dreams that they are capable of achieving. Back said his students had professional jobs in their country of origin and now tend to work only menial jobs here.
"I think they’re very much misunderstood and they are far, far better people than we give them credit for,” Back said.
In addition to his students’ ability to pick up the English language, Back said they appreciate his teaching, and he is thankful for the “richness the Latin culture brings.”
Back also is developing the cultural exchange through the culinary world. After one of his students brought him pozole — a type of Mexican soup — he returned the container filled with a Tuscan three-bean soup.
"I love my teaching experiance," Back said. "I would recommend it to anybody who has time on their hands and the inclination to teach English — they should volunteer to teach here (at Centro San Juan Diego)."
For more information about volunteering to teach at Centro San Juan Diego, please contact Laura Becerra at laura.becerra@archden.... or 303-282-3370.
_Erin Scherer is associate director of Centro San Juan Diego
[Photo courtesy of Centro San Juan Diego]