Pierce welcomed several new instructors to the college this fall including ESL teacher Sabine Burghagen. English As a Second Language is a class that’s important to many students at Pierce.
Burghagen’s first language isn’t English either.
“I am from Germany and German is my first language,” Burghagen said. “English is my third language… I hope to show students it is possible to learn a language later in life and be able to communicate well.”
Burghagen relates to her students and helps them because she too experienced the struggle of learning the English language.
“I am supportive when it comes to the needs of others. I’m very patient with my students,” said Burghagen.
Although Burghagen lives in the U.S. with her husband and 5-year-old daughter, Germany is where her heart lies. She and her family return to the country visit relatives once a year.
“ I wish I could be closer to my family in Germany,” Burghagen said. “It’s a far trip, and it’s not cheap, but I couldn’t imagine not going home at least once a year.”
Although teaching remains a passion of Burghagen’s, photography also is something she enjoys. She hasn’t been able to do much with yet due to time and schedules but she enjoys a lot.
Her favorite subjects to photograph are sunsets and her daughter.
“ I feel relaxed when I take the pictures, like I’m in a perfect yet unreal place, and I feel proud of myself when I am able to catch the colors just right,” Burghagen said.
Putting together puzzles is also one of Burghagen’s favorite activities. In it, Burghagen finds the challenge and the overwhelming feelings to be inspiring because in the end, things fall into place and create a perfect finish.
This view Burghagen relates much to a key principle she strives to follow in life, which is that the greatest things in life don’t come easily and you must work hard to accomplish your goals.
“If it’s easy for you, you are not challenging yourself to your full potential, and the outcome is not fulfilling,” Burghagen said. “ I like doing puzzles in dim light sometimes, just to challenge myself a little more.”
Even though Burghagen is new at Pierce, it’s certainly not the beginning of her teaching career.
“I have taught in many different settings. I started as a middle school teacher in Germany and have been everywhere ESL is taught in Tacoma,” Burghagen said. “Every school has been different from the last, but I am anticipating that Pierce College will be my last stop.”
Burghagen enjoys observing her students succeed and helping them through their struggles.
Because she has faced similar cultural and linguistic struggles as her students, she feels sympathy and a desire to help her students succeed.
“I love getting to know people and earning their trust, and I love sharing my own experiences so I can ease somebody else’s worries,” Burghagen said. “ If it is your goal to be fluent [in English], and you dedicate your time toward that goal, hard as it may be, I know you will succeed.”
Burghagen is excited and anticipating what will happen during her first year at Pierce. Though she knows it will be a challenge at times, she’s ready to push ahead.
“Teaching makes me happy, so you will always see a big smile on my face.” Burghagen said. “ I’m really excited to be in this new position and can’t wait to meet everyone.”
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