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Off Central: Retired Phoenix teacher giving English lessons to workers

A group works on English lessons at Fellowship Square in Phoenix. Retired Central High School teacher Joyce Sanders, who began the courses, declined to be photographed for this story. (KTAR Photo/Kathy Cline)

PHOENIX — Dozens of foreign-born workers at a Phoenix care home can now speak English thanks to a local teacher.

Retired Central High School teacher Joyce Sanders came to Fellowship Square — an assisted-living facility for seniors — in 2002.

She said many of the home’s workers could understand English. However, they refused to speak it, thinking it wasn’t good enough to understand.

Sander’s sister proposed a solution not long after they moved in: “Joyce, get off of that couch – and why don’t you just go teach these kids English?”

Although she’d never taught a language — Sanders said her Central High career was in physical education and social studies — she agreed the English class was a good idea. She got permission and some financial help from the Fellowship Square administration, and things took off from there.

She remembered her first student like it was yesterday.

“One of the young ladies, who was a housekeeper, had come to Phoenix as a refugee out of Bosnia,” she said. “… She had spent six years in Germany, learning what she thought was English.”

And another group of students asked for help in becoming U.S. citizens. They came to her, Sanders said, with one question: “’Teacher, can you help me pass the test?'”

“I said yes. We had 14 [workers] that I was responsible for getting their citizenship.”

Sanders retired from her second teaching career in 2012. Fellowship Square is still teaching English to its workers, though, every Tuesday afternoon.

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