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Letters: Thanks, Frau Uscola, for opening doors

My seven years of teaching English as a Second Language has been an enlightening experience. Every day I work in a school, where the world walks through my classroom door: The Philippines, Columbia, Ukraine, Mongolia, Ethiopia and Thailand to name a few. I have students who are aspiring world leaders and teenagers who have never attended formal schooling.

In 1996, I walked out a classroom door ready to model my favorite teacher. She helped me formulate three goals I hold to today. The first is to embrace world events, as if they were happening to me. This is the world of my students. We are all unified and their experiences should be celebrated and mourned by all of us. The second is to be there for my students as teacher, life advisor and cheerleader. It is gratifying to make a positive impact on people who are learning, growing and developing their own personal ambitions. My third goal is to educate other teachers and professionals about our global community. ESL students and their families have an experience which few Americans relate to. Learning an unfamiliar language and culture can be daunting. I want to help people understand the process of learning a language and culture.

I have had some of the same students since they were in sixth grade. This year, they are graduating and I'm busy with graduation parties. While I am proud to pay it forward, the credit goes to the one who opened my eyes and many doors for me. Nobody helped define the direction of my life more than Frau Uscola.

It is with heavy heart, we say goodbye to such an influential educator. Her greatest legacy will be her ability to reach young adults and in-spire them to make life-long commitments to making worldwide connections and relationships. Thanks, Frau Uscola, for opening the door to the world. In retirement, take comfort that your insight had wings and flew far beyond the door of your classroom.

Katie (Gustad) Thompson, Chicago, Ill.