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Bronxville Union Free School District

Students Take On Teacher Shortage in Cambodia

A group of Bronxville High School students are devoting countless hours of their time and skills to spread education around the world. Through Teaching and Sharing Skills to Enrich Lives, a global nonprofit organization, they’ve been volunteering to teach English to young children in poverty-stricken areas in Cambodia via weekly Skype lessons.

Sophomores Sabrina Mellinghoff and Emily Perry, who are leading the volunteer efforts at the high school, said it’s been gratifying to connect with people across the globe, share their passion for teaching and watch the progress their students make over the course of the lessons. The high school students log onto their computers weekly, usually in the evening to accommodate the 11-hour time difference, to connect with their young students. They teach them proper English pronunciation, correct their grammar, challenge them with quizzes and educational games, and provide them with positive feedback on their work. This year, Mellinghoff and Perry have expanded their efforts by providing in-depth, advanced English lessons to a Cambodian teacher.

“You really get to build relationships with the teachers and the students, and you learn about their lives and how different they are from your own,” said Perry, who used to live in Singapore and has visited Cambodia three times with her family. “I can understand the problems because I had seen it firsthand. I had been there and I had seen how the students were sharing desks. They were so enthusiastic about learning, so I wanted to be a part of it.”

Perry said she was grateful to have had the opportunity to explore Cambodia and learn more about its rich history, but she also saw firsthand some of the challenges people face in poverty-stricken areas. As a result, she felt compelled to get involved and make a difference by volunteering with TASSEL. In addition to remotely working with students and teachers, Perry and the rest of the high school students have been raising money for the global organization, which provides food and medical supplies to children and families.

“People in Cambodia have such different lives from us,” said Mellinghoff, who added that universities in Cambodia depend on English language textbooks but most people cannot fully comprehend them due to the lack of teachers, which limits the ability of students to learn English. “We’ve learned how privileged we are to be born in a country where we can get education. It also teaches me that education is not something to be taken for granted and that I should be making the most of my good education.”

Mellinghoff said her students’ motivation and drive to learn to better their lives inspires her to continue to pursue her passion and spread awareness.   

“I hope to make a difference in the lives of Cambodian students and teachers, whom I am now connected with, because they see that there are people from other countries who do care about them, who are not too caught up in their own lives and who are willing to help them,” she said. “I also want to make a difference in the lives of others who join the organization.”

TASSEL’s mission is to provide continuous, high-quality English education and sustainability services to the underserved in rural Cambodia to help lift them out of poverty. For more information, visit www.tasselcambodia.com.