Bustleton: Teaching English Provides Valuable Help to Local Residents

Kathy Fagan explained her food lesson to the class.

“Alright class, now which of these has food and which of these has actions?”

Kathy Fagan explained her food lesson to the class.

Kathy Fagan pointed to two words on the chalkboard in front of her: “ingredients” and “instructions”. For that day’s lesson, her small class of eight students discussed the concept of a recipe in their makeshift classroom in the basement of the Bustleton Library. In front of her was a table with an assortment of food-related items, ranging from olive oil to spices to dishes, objects to be used for a hands-on cooking demo at the end of class.

As a volunteer teacher working with The Center for Literacy, the nation’s largest nonprofit community-based literacy program, she has helped non-English speakers with their language barriers for about four years.

“The biggest obstacle for me is the fact that we work off site. There are no textbooks, I develop my own lessons, and there are no places to even make photo copies,” Fagan said.

Kathy Fagan helped a student understand the lesson with useful coloring books.

Despite the struggle, teaching is something Fagan finds joy in. Her students, who currently come from Russia to Egypt to Belarus, showed intense respect and affection for her.

“Because of her, I can now speak English a little,” said Bintou Diabate, who moved to the area from Guinea, West Africa.

Fagan’s work is exceptional in that it has helped local residents in the area improve their lives in a multitude of ways.

“Sometimes people come to class to improve their English so that they can find better work,” Fagan said. “Many of these people are house cleaners or maids and want to find better pay. But some of them – mostly the elderly – come during the days for companionship, to connect with the community.”

Kathy Fagan sat with students at the end of class. She said she hopes her lessons better their careers and lives.

Whatever their reasons for attending class, the students have flourished under Fagan’s care. But the problem is resources.

“We’re in great need of volunteers,” Fagan said. “The Center for Literacy provides everything, including training. For many of the higher-level speakers, they simply need someone to practice speaking English with.”


  1. Hi Kathy , I’m Quan Hong Luong and I am from Community College of Philadelphia . I visit your website because I just want to say ” Thank you very much ” to you . Remember , 1 year ago , I came to your class , I couldn’t listen and speak English and now I can listen and speak English but not very well , anw I appreciate what you did for me , Thank you very very much and I have a friend , she just came to the United States of America for 1 year ago , and she wants to improve her English, so could you help her . Please reply my message as soon as you can . Thanks

  2. Hi Quan,

    Yes, I remember. You worked hard in class and I’m very happy that you have had success! It’s possible that your friend can begin in July. Can she come talk to me at Bustleton Library sometime? I’m at the library all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

    Nice to hear from you!

  3. That’s sound very great Kathy , I’m very happy to hear a good new from you . I will tell my friend come to meet you as soon as possible . Thanks teacher very much .

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