ESL Teacher Feature: Meet Karen Hutter

Tuesday, July 19, 2022
ESL Teacher Feature:  Meet Karen Hutter | Phoenix College

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I always wanted to be a teacher, but there were not a lot of teaching jobs when I started out.  In 1968, I came to Phoenix College.  Later, I came back to PC and got my associate’s degree to teach and continued my studies at ASU, where I received a bachelor’s and master’s degree.  One really cool fact about me is that I grew up close to Phoenix College and come from a family of PC graduates.  Go Bears!

Professionally, I was one of the first ESL teachers at ASU, and when I graduated, I got a job in the Alhambra School District.  I was the ESL Coordinator for my school and helped the state develop a program so that teachers could get the SEI Endorsement.  Because of this experience, I was hired by Ottawa University to develop and teach ESL courses.

After retiring from Alhambra, I came back to Phoenix College in 2012 to teach ESL and Reading classes. 

What do you like most about teaching ESL students?

It is so rewarding when I can see it in my students’ eyes when they finally “get it” or understand a concept!  You can truly see the light bulb go off, and to me, that is the pleasure of teaching when I witness those successes.  The students have a glow in their eyes when they finally understand.  Also, I love seeing my former ESL students come back after graduation just to say hello and provide me with updates.  I’ve had students come back and say,  “you always told me I could do it…and I did,” which inspires me to keep teaching.  These are the stories that make teaching so worthwhile.

What would your ESL students say about you?

First, I think my students would say that I am very patient, but I push them to do their best.  They would also say that my classes are very interactive and full of practice opportunities.  We work a lot on grammar and the correct pronunciation of words so that they can speak in full, complete sentences.  I make them use complete sentences in class discussions and hold them accountable for their learning.

What is your most memorable teaching experience?

There are so many experiences that come to mind, but ultimately, when I have students come back and take multiple classes with me, it is so rewarding.  I get to watch them grow as they move from one level to the next.  It is such a compliment to have students who want to come back and take another class with me. 

What advice would you give to ESL students or to someone thinking about taking an ESL class?

I would encourage students to come to class every day. Every class has something new and interesting, so they don’t want to miss it!  For example, in my classes we build on what we learned during the previous class.  I always like to remind my students that they paid for the class.  I’ll give them their money’s worth!  It is also important for students to come prepared, be organized, and do their homework. I always remind my students that I am here to help them succeed, but they must be willing to participate in class and learn from their peers as well.

Additional Thoughts:

Phoenix College is my home.  This is where my heart is. When I got hired here, I felt like I’d come home…that I’d come full circle.  Phoenix College is truly a place where students are respected.  Here at PC, the faculty work together to promote success and the students are evidence of that success.