The ESL for Equality podcast brings teachers the latest developments in English language learning for refugees and immigrants. We discuss teaching and learning strategies, curriculum development, and policy that affects our learners. We speak with those driving the field forward and hear stories from refugees during their language acquisition journey.

All podcast episodes can be found here as well as on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. Just search ESL For Equality. Scroll down to see the full catalog of episodes. Sign up for the ESL for Equality Podcast newsletter to stay in the loop on upcoming episodes and content!

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Listen to episode 21 where I have a conversation on interpretation services with Abdi Ali. I met Abdi in Nairobi, Kenya when we both worked in the Cultural Orientation department at Resettlement Support Center Africa. Abdi worked as an interpreter himself before moving on to assist the Interpreter Training Specialist in hiring and training interpreters in the field.

We talk:
– the importance of interpretation throughout the resettlement process
– the inherent challenges with interpretation
– what interpretation really looks like on the ground level
– Abdi’s new initiative African Peace Bridges.

Get in touch with Abdi and learn more about African Peace Bridges:

African Peace Bridges

Abdi Ali LinkedIn

Listen to episode 20 where I discuss some books I’ve read recently that have opened my mind and had me questioning. The books are:

Race, Empire, and English Language Teaching – Suhanthie Motha –…ing-9780807755129

Decolonisation, Globalisation: Language-in-Education Policy and Practice – Angel Lin & Peter Martin –…_and_Education

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong –…cean-vuong/

Radio Congo: Signals of Hope from Africa’s Deadliest War – Ben Rawlence –…781851689651

Listen to episode 19 where I have a discussion with my dear friend Ian Randall. I know Ian Randall from back home in Chicago, IL. During grad school, I taught English at a Kaplan International, housed on the south side of Chicago on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus. While there, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing teachers who quickly and easily became lifelong friends. Ian was one of them.

He has worked at writing centers, community-based ESL programs, Intensive English Programs and more. Since our years teaching together, we have both left Chicago in pursuit of careers and lives both abroad and elsewhere in the US. Currently, Ian lives in Japan and works as an English Instructor.

We talk:
– differences between community and collegiate programs;
– the role of assessment within different English language programs;
– the importance of cultural context;
– what it is like to be an English teacher abroad;
– and more!


Listen to episode 18 where I have a conversation with author and poet Laurie Kuntz. Full disclosure, Laurie was a complete stranger to me before recording this podcast.  Her work had been living on my shelf and in my classroom for years, yet it never occurred to me to question who was behind those incredibly relatable, meaningful stories I and so many of my colleagues have used! I figured since it was written in 1982, it may be too challenging to find the author or that she may not even be interested in discussing one of her works from nearly 40 years ago!

On a whim, I decided to write her a quick note and to my delight, she wrote back!  It has been really incredible to learn about Laurie’s amazing background and work history.  Her experiences shed light on how the refugee resettlement, specifically cultural orientation and training process has changed over the years.  With decades of international teaching experience, including several years in refugee camps, Laurie is truly a resource to us all.

We talk:
– Experiences as a teacher abroad;
– The intent and inspiration behind the creation of The New Arrival series;
– How poetry can save the world;
– So much more!

Laurie Kuntz Website
The New Arrival Book 1: In the Refugee Camp
The New Arrival Book 2: In the United States
Children of the Enemy: Oral Histories of Vietnamese Amerasians and Their Mothers – Stephen DeBonis (Laurie’s husband)

Listen to episode 17 where I have a conversation with Andrea Echelberger from Literacy Minnesota. Andrea is the ESL Training Coordinator at Literacy Minnesota, formerly known as Minnesota Literacy Council. If you teach refugee and immigrant adults, you are likely very familiar with this organization and the wealth of resources they have made available. Andrea has a wide range of experience teaching English, both domestically and abroad. Her passion for creating practical and useful materials, collaborating with fellow teachers and colleagues around the world, and empowering English language learners has been a real inspiration to me. We talk about resources available through Literacy Minnesota as well as a few other leading organizations, what to look for when searching for materials for adult language learners, how to manage large virtual classes, training materials for volunteers, and so much more. Definitely tune in to this one if you are a teacher/volunteer yourself or have an interest in joining a classroom one day!

I am ABE:…amabe?authuser=0

Literacy Minnesota Educator Resources:

Instructional Support Kits:

Remote tutoring resources page:

Bow Valley Readers:…ders.php


Atlas ABE:

Literacy Indy – Pathway to Literacy:…/home?authuser=0

Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association:

Listen to episode 16 for a brief rundown of some of Biden’s recent immigration initiatives. While I don’t cover every order or initiative, I attempt to break down the some of the largest and more complex issues. News moves fast – my apologies if some of this is no longer accurate.


Listen to episode 14 where I talk with Sarah Jackson, the founder of the Denver/Aurora based organization Casa de Paz. Several years ago, Sarah’s eyes were opened to the realities of immigration to the United States. We discuss her experiences and how she decided she could be a welcoming force in the Denver area. Casa de Paz works directly to support individuals released from the Aurora ICE Detention Center as well as families who come to visit their loved ones. Casa de Paz is run entirely on volunteer energy and the desire to make the US a welcoming place for all. The work Casa does helps to re humanize immigrants and support people in getting to their final destination. We also discuss Sarah’s new book, The House that Love Built, as well as the documentary made about Casa de Paz, Welcome Strangers.

To learn more about the work Casa de Paz does as well as Sarah’s book and the documentary, visit the following:
The House that Love Built – Book
Welcome Strangers – Documentary

Listen to episode 15 where I have the great honor of speaking with journalist and author, Helen Thorpe. She has authored three books and her magazine work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Texas Monthly, and more. We talk specifically of her book The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom. Through this narrative, Helen explores immigrant and refugee high school students and their families who had been relocated to Denver. Helen’s writing gives readers an intimate glimpse into what this transition looks like for young adults. Listen for a discussion on The Newcomers and an exploration of how we can be a more welcoming society.

For more information on Helen Thorpe and to find her books:
Bookbar Denver:
Tattered Cover:
Indie Bookstore Finder:

Listen to Episode 13 with guest Abdullahi Mire, a freelance journalist as well as the founder of Dadaab Book Drive and the a host on Radio Gargaar in Dadaab Refugee Camp. We talk about the history and potential future of Dadaab Book Drive and how Radio Gargar has been used to spread life saving information about COVID-19. Having grown up in the camp, Abdullahi sheds light on the history as well as the current situation in Dadaab.

To contact or follow Abdullahi and to learn more about these programs, visit:

Twitter: @miire06
Twitter: @DadaabBF
Dadaab Book Drive Facebook:
Radio Gargaar Facebook:

Listen to Episode 12 for a discussion on the ongoing conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. This episode includes a conversation with Anthony Alando, an educator within the refugee space, as well as clips from Al Jazeera news. Please note, this was recorded on November 21 – the situation has changed slightly since then.

For more information on the conflict as well as a bit of Ethiopian history, check out these links:
– – Al Jazeera
– – BBC
– – France 24 (background on the issue)

Contact and/or follow Anthony:
Facebook: Kerry Anthony
Twitter: @ Anthony07017753

Listen to Episode 11, a bonus mini episode, in honor of Thanksgiving week! I am so incredibly grateful to all guests, listeners, and supporters of the pod. I am proud of and humbled by this community and hope to continue making content with and for you! Thank you thank you thank you!

Support ESL For Equality by purchasing merch here:

Listen to more music by Michael Caskey, aka Bunny Patootie:
– Spotify:
– Purchase (amazing) albums here:

Listen to episode 10 where I have a conversation with my friend and colleague, Katie Pham. Katie teaches adult ESL and has extensive experience working with beginning and pre-literate students. In this episode we talk through some best practices, some unavoidable challenges, and how COVID-19 and remote learning have flipped our classrooms upside down.

Resources for teaching beginning ESL students:
Literacy Minnesota – curriculum for adult ESL learners
Bow Valley College – leveled readers applicable to adult learners
Oxford picture dictionary – vocab and pictures for beginning ESL learners
The Spring Institute – amazing resources for working with low level learners

How to reach Katie:

Listen to episode 9 – part of the Understanding Refugee Resettlement Series – Understanding the Asylum Process. In this episode I talk with Attorney Kelly Parks and Doctoral Student Roberto Fernandez Morales on their experience supporting women and children at the Texas/Mexico border in preparing for their credible fear interviews. We discuss conditions at the detention center, explore the ins and outs of a credible fear interview, and analyze how our current system sets people up for failure. Trigger warning, we discuss sensitive topics related to violence and persecution that listeners may find disturbing. We also use language that may not be suitable for all listeners.

Learn more about the asylum process in this country and how you can get involved:…nities/dilley/…-network/

Questions for Roberto Fernandez Morales can be sent to

Listen to episode 7, a conversation on Cultural Orientation with my friend and former colleague Irene Wakarindi. This is the second episode in the Understanding Refugee Resettlement series. Irene has over 5 years experience working within refugee resettlement, specifically Cultural Orientation. She gives an overview of what exactly Cultural Orientation is, what trainers do, what topics are covered, and what could be improved.

Connect with Irene on the following platforms:
LinkedIn: Irene Wakarindi
Twitter: @wordswithnash

Listen to episode 8 where I chat with Linnie Pawlek, the founder of the organization Teach by Tech. We discuss how this organization utilizes a hybrid model to teach tangible skills such as financial literacy and computers to immigrants and refugees in the community. We explore how COVID has sent many, if not all, organizations and schools into a 100% virtual universe and how instructors and program managers can thoughtfully and meaningfully introduce concepts of digital literacy in their classes. Finally, we talk about Teach By Tech’s new initiative to provide resources and learning to folks with limited connectivity.

Check out Teach by Tech at:
Twitter: @Teach_by_Tech

Listen to episode 6, an interview with my friend and new author, Melvin Otieno. Melvin recently published a comic-style book called Little Fugee that follows the story of a young, unaccompanied minor refugee who is resettled to the United States. We talk about what inspired him to create the book, what he hopes to accomplish in sharing this story, and what projects are upcoming.

Buy your own copy of Little Fugee on Amazon here. See more of Melvin’s work or get in touch with him on Instagram and Facebook by searching Melville Comics.

Listen to episode 5, the first in a series entitled Understanding Refugee Resettlement. In these episodes, we will dive into topics like vetting refugees, cultural orientation, arrival processes and more. In this episode, I discuss the latest Presidential Determination for number of refugees to be resettled in fiscal year 2021. Additionally, I give a brief overview of the history of resettlement (post WWII) and discuss how refugee resettlement has historically had bipartisan support.

Listen to Episode 4, part 2 of my conversation with my friend and colleague Sharon McCreary. Go back and listen to part 1 if you missed it! In this episode, we talk volunteer best practices, volunteers in virtual classrooms, and the incredible organization, A Little Something, that was created to assist female refugee students in accessing income and community.

Get in touch with Sharon or see some of the cool work she does here:
Instagram: @alittlesomethingdenver
Twitter: @alsrefugeecraft, @cresltutors
Facebook: Colorado Refugee ESL Volunteers, A Little Something: The Denver Refugee Crafts Collective @refugeecrafts
Email: sharon.mccreary@emilygriffith.edurefugeecrafts@gmail.comRefugeeESL

Listen to Episode 3 of the ESL for Equality podcast below. This is part 1 of a 2 part conversation with my friend and colleague Sharon McCreary where we talk all things refugee ESL, specifically using volunteers in and out of the classroom.

Get in touch with Sharon or see some of the cool work she does here:
Instagram: @alittlesomethingdenver
Twitter: @alsrefugeecraft, @cresltutors
Facebook: Colorado Refugee ESL Volunteers, A Little Something: The Denver Refugee Crafts Collective @refugeecrafts

Listen to Episode 2 of the ESL for Equality podcast below. In this episode, I speak to my friend and colleague, Bikobiko Mto about his experiences as a resettled refugee and what it is like teaching English as a non-native English speaker.

Get in touch with Biko and/or see what he is up to on the following platforms:

Instagram: Mto2biko
Twitter: bikobikoM
Facebook: Bikobiko Mto

Listen to Episode 1 of the ESL for Equality podcast below. This episode gives and introduction to the topics and content I will be discussing in the coming episodes.

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