Speaking American English in Lavanttaler Classrooms

On a strike of luck amidst the chaos of the global pandemic I, Ben Hoffman Ellis – an American, was fortunate to return to my beloved Austria, heading straight down to Carinthia after an unplanned 6 month-long hiatus. Previously I had taught English at the BORG Wolfsberg as well as in Völkermarkt where I learned how much I loved teaching. This school year I joined the HLW where it was my job to not only assist with English lessons as a native speaker, but also to bring an impression of my homeland to the students. Although many of us had not traveled in months, I like to think that my lessons allowed my students to discover the United States in an alternative way.

In the Fall students of the second grade participated in a project titled “Our Planet, Our Future” a collaboration with their peers from schools in Belgium and Estonia addressing the climate crisis. The HLW focuses on the values of environmentalism, and it was great fun discussing how we can preserve and protect our shared Earth. I carried this theme into many other classrooms, sharing my love for America’s biodiverse wilderness, especially so students could learn about conservation at the US national parks like Yellowstone. Naturally we spent much of this year online in distance learning, which if anything, taught us all to appreciate our valuable time in the classroom even more once we were allowed to return. Austria impressed me with its efforts to test students & staff, guaranteeing as best as possible safety and equal education opportunities in challenging times. Many of my colleagues really proved how much the teachers do care for their students, how determined they are to help them succeed.

Now that my time teaching is over, I can say that working with the students at school was the best part by far. I am confident that the English they learn in their classrooms will help them later in life, and I hope they will use it to meet people from all walks of life and to explore beyond the most commonly walked streets of big cities. Just as Wolfsberg sits in paradise, so do many untouched destinations in the USA, and hopefully my American English will help them find these places one day.

Ben Hoffman Ellis, June 4th, 2021