HAWAII AT WORK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sharon MacQuoid, standing, teaches English as a Second Language at TransPacific Hawaii College and also is director of the private college's Service Learning Center, which places students in community service programs. Above, MacQuoid on Tuesday helped students in the school's computer lab, answering some questions from Ayaka Hara, left, and Manami Takao.
The virtue of altruism
Sharon MacQuoid both teaches English and promotes the value of community service to students from Asia
Title: ESL teacher and coordinator of TransPacific Hawaii College's Service Learning Center
Job: Teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) at TransPacific Hawaii College and coordinates the school's student volunteer program
Sharon MacQuoid knows about volunteering to help others. The ESL instructor and community service coordinator at TransPacific Hawaii College is active in her own alma mater's local alumni club, the UCLA Bruin Club of Hawaii; has worked with Hawaii Adult Education Literacy; and is a past vice president of the Friends of Hanauma Bay, which until recently was headed by her current boss, John Norris. At Norris' urging, MacQuoid helped create a formal volunteer program at the two-year, 260-student college, whose students are mostly from Japan. Besides UCLA, MacQuoid is a graduate of Inglewood High School, "near the Los Angeles airport," and has an ESL teaching certificate from Hawaii Pacific University. She moved to Hawaii about 20 years ago, she said, after her son and daughter "went off to college. ... I was divorced and free to do what I wanted to do." A resident of Kailua, she admits to being in her 60s.
Question: What does it mean to say that you teach English as a second language? Would that be like an English course or a remedial English course?
Answer: You know, our program is academic, so we're preparing our students for transfer, many of them to American universities. Many of our students have studied English for three or four years before coming here, but a great majority plan to transfer to a four-year university. So our ESL is academic based.
Q: What does that mean?
A: That means that some people take ESL for business reasons -- for conversations, things like that. But all of our readings are for academic purposes, like for writing essays, because here at this college our program is for six months of ESL, and then they have another 18 months of the AA (Associate of Arts) degree program, which would be just like any other junior college -- Honolulu Community College or Kapiolani Community College -- and our program would be all liberal arts; there are no specialties or majors.
Q: How do you teach ESL? Do you go back and forth between Japanese and English, or is it all in English?
A: It's all in English. It's called "intensive English." So here on campus, we try to have the students speak only English. Our students also live with home-stays -- English-speaking families in the community. At the moment, I'm teaching one reading and writing class in the ESL program and a beginning writing class in the AA program.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
TransPacific Hawaii College student Shoya Kishimoto, left, stretched on Tuesday as he turned in his paper to ESL instructor Sharon MacQuoid in the school's computer lab.
Have you ever been to Japan?
A: Only briefly. And I don't speak Japanese, which really can be an advantage, because then you never translate for the students. I taught once in Argentina for a few months -- I do speak Spanish -- and I was finding myself translating, because it's very easy at times, but here we try not to use any of the students' first language in the classroom.
Q: How long have you been teaching ESL at the college?
A: You know, I always forget. (Laughter) I could look it up, but I think it's been more than 10 years. I got into ESL by being a volunteer for the Hawaii Literacy Program. That's what made me interested in ESL. I'm a UCLA graduate in education, but after I moved to Hawaii, I went to HPU (Hawaii Pacific University) and got their certificate for teaching ESL.
Q: How did you get to be director of the school's Service Learning Center?
A: I started teaching a class that's called Community Involvement, and in that class we send ESL students out into the community to be volunteers. Then when (school President) John Norris came here, he decided he wanted to institutionalize the program more, expand it. At that point, there was another teacher and myself teaching the class, and we were getting more and more volunteers, people who even though they didn't take the class, they were coming to us and saying they wanted to take the class. So we began keeping records for the students of where they were volunteering, and started assisting them, teaching them, really, on how to be a volunteer: How to make a resume, filling out an application. And that it's a job, a non-paid job. So all of the responsibilities of that, we try to teach those.
We also try to teach the students the altruistic motivations of volunteers, of why so many Americans volunteer. America has the highest rate of volunteers in the world, we think, and their motivations are mostly to help somebody and to be involved in the community.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
MacQuoid, who also is coordinator of the school's Service Learning Center, talked with students, from left, Kotomi Takahashi, Aya Hirai, Tomomi Kurosaki and Ai Masaki.
How do you find programs in which to place the students?
A: You know, years ago when we first really started this program in a more formalized way, we had to reach the people. We would call nonprofits and say, "Do you need a volunteer?" But as we have been placing more students, we have reached the point where people will call us and say, for example, "We know you have volunteers. You worked last month at Aina Haina school. Can you help us at Niu Valley Intermediate?"
Q: How many different community service programs are there?
A: We are now working with about a hundred agencies, and there are many more.
Q: How much say do the students have in picking which community service programs they end up working in?
A: It's all their choice. It's totally their choice. I just meet with them and counsel them about the pros and cons: What age group do you want to work with? Do you want office work? Some students want to link their service work with their future careers. Like people who want to be teachers, we send them to preschools.
Q: Is participation in the community service programs really voluntary for these kids or is it required for graduation?
A: It's not required for graduation. It's required in classes that have it like as a lab, a part of the class, but it's not required for anyone to do unless they take those particular classes. But it's very popular here at the college. The students see it as a way to meet people in the community, to practice their English. So we have to work a little bit on the altruistic part. (Laughter) Volunteering is not common in Japan. Japanese people tend to volunteer in foreign countries, but not in their own country so much.
Q: So how busy does this all keep you?
A: Oh, probably right now we have delegated about 12 hours a week to my working on this project. And it's getting bigger. I'm doing things like writing grants, trying to find new nonprofits to work on. So it's increasing, but it's not full time, it's about half time.
Q: And the rest of your time is teaching the class?