This Educator Helping the Latino Immigrants by Giving them ESL Training

Meet Melissa Potts, ESL Senior Manager and Adult ESL Instructor at Canal Alliance. She is teaching English as a second language to Latino individuals to find work and live a respectful life. 

In the times when racism is rampant in the country, Melissa Potts wishes to bring “cultural and linguistic awareness to teacher education”. Being fluent in Spanish herself, she teaches English as a second language (ESL) to individuals from the Hispanic and Latino community. She has found her passion for helping students regardless of their age, educational background, and language. 

Melissa originally belongs to South California and grew up around supportive parents. She never had to worry about education, as her parents always put it first. Growing up, she was a curious student who loved to read. She likes to learn about people and their behaviors, which helped her understand her students. She graduated in Spanish Literature from the University of Redlands and holds a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She taught Spanish for two years during her masters. After this, she moved back to California and started teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in 2011. Recently, she enrolled in the English Language Teaching and SLIFE course at California State University to get a Doctorate in Education (EdD). 

Talking about her organization, she says, “We are a community organization working to empower Latino immigrants in Marin County to get out of generational poverty”. Canal Alliance empowers and educates Latino individuals to become US citizens, learn English, graduate college, find work to make ends meet. The organization is committed to equality and inclusivity of the individuals belonging to diverse groups. They support immigrants and wish to build a society where everyone can work, live, and succeed. 

The Latino community in the USA is often marginalized and shunned to the sidelines. They need to understand, speak, read, and write English to become a US citizen or even find work in the country. At Canal Alliance, Melissa educates the teachers to teach these individuals ESL to live their life with dignity. The customer response towards the Canal Alliance has been positive. “Students are continuing with their studies despite the digital divide our community faces. They are doing challenging work despite obstacles that are in their way”, she says. 

Even in the trying times of COVID, Melissa and her team are working their best to help as many people as possible despite their personal struggles. She believes in the community and feels even in times of uncertainty; they step up for each other. They make everyone feel valued and seeing this Melissa takes pride in what she does. 

Before joining Canal Alliance, Melissa never really knew what she wanted to do. She realized that she wanted to train teachers on how to help adults who have interrupted and limited formal education. She also works as a Cross-Cultural Communications Instructor at UC Berkeley Extension. While starting out her career as an ESL teacher, Melissa did not have enough training. Whenever she started a new job, she felt the training was becoming less and less. Presently, the lack of resources and funds is one challenge they face. 

Signing off Melissa leaves a message for all the women out there working to achieve their goals, she says, “Find your passion, live your truth and share your gifts”. Melissa keeps it short and real to inspire the women out there to do what they love and also learn to share simultaneously. She wishes to give back to society by helping the Hispanic communities and individuals.