Solimar Collado ’18G was 11 years old when she learned English. She’s self-taught. After graduating from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez, Collado gave ESL lessons to local adults. Now she’s doing the same for a group of UNH housekeepers. And she’s doing it for free. Collado came to UNH to get her master’s degree in English literature. In 2018, soon after reaching that goal, she took a job as hall director of Adams Tower West. There, she connected with Patty Rooney, HR representative for housing.
Rooney knew that there were several Spanish-speaking UNH employees who were interested in bettering their English skills. When she found out Collado was fluent in both, she approached her with an idea.
“As the HR partner for several diverse employment groups, providing resources for interested staff to learn conversational English has been a goal for some time,” Rooney says. “From the feedback we’ve received, enhancing [these employees’] English-speaking ability is seen as a way to improve communication with col- leagues and confidently engage with students.” For Collado it is an opportunity to do something she loves and test out a possible career.
“When I was studying for my master’s, I was thinking that I wanted to be a teacher, and this gave me the chance to interact with students in a different way,” she says. The pilot program caps the number of students at seven, but there is already a waiting list for next semester that includes dining services employees.
The group meets in the Babcock Hall lounge every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. — just after the housekeepers’ workday ends. Classes are free.
“I’m trying to nail down verbs like ‘to be.’ It’s one of the hardest verbs to teach. If they don’t get that, they’ll have a hard time,” Collado says. “And then there’s structure, grammar, pronunciation; I use a little drawing that shows where their tongue is supposed to be so they can hear the different sounds. Basically your mouth is your instrument, and the way you move it can make any sound.”
Because she was paying as she went, it took Collado five years to get her undergraduate degree, which is also in English literature. She took several linguistic courses, which she says help when it comes to teaching English. At the end of the semester, she wants to poll the group to see if her classes have been helpful.
“The students are so willing to learn; it’s really fun,” Collado says. “But I want to make sure I’m doing all I can to help them.”