By Kim Johnson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week’s Excellent Educator is helping students new to this country feel more at home.

Mayo Hart is an English-language teacher at Minnetonka Community Education Center.

Her students come to her class sometimes not knowing a word of English but, as WCCO learned, in just months can give a TV interview with confidence.

Hart went into education not wanting to teach children, but adults.

“It’s absolutely the learning for me. They teach me how to be a teacher. Their questions are great,” Hart said. “They’re all interested in learning. Everyone is so focused. I’m so lucky — who asks you when they can take the next tests?”

Her students speak languages from all over the world, this class representing 17 countries — including France, Algeria, India, Venezuela, Ecuador and Columbia.

“It’s like traveling without leaving home, it’s a vacation every day, and I’m sure I learn more than my students every day of the week,” she said.

Some of her students have a grasp of the English language, others are starting from scratch.

“(They) might not have literacy skills even in their own language, so that student might be here a bit longer,” she said.

Hart is determined to help all her students, no matter their need. Katherine Angel came to Excelsior from Columbia as an exchange student last summer. And when she came to the state in June, she didn’t speak a word of English.

“She will help you in any way. For example, I needed some classes in driving, and she helps you get classes even though they’re volunteer, so she helps you in any way possible,” Angel said. “I know Minnesota is a great part of this country. It’s Minnesota Nice.”

Hart doesn’t do it for the thanks, but only to know her students are getting the skills they need to be successful and happy.

While many of Hart’s students are immigrants and refugees, others are exchange students or their spouse is here temporarily working for Cargill or another Minnesota company.

The program is free of charge, paid for by the district’s levy or fundraisers. They also have programs for driving, job skills in nursing, truck driving and medical terminology.

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