Jennifer Wood helps students from other countries succeed Jennifer Wood helps students from other countries succeed
A school system’s response to migration influences the financial and social success of all the individuals it serves, regardless of their immigrant background. Some schools have to quickly integrate a large number of migrants and asylum seekers; some schools must accommodate students whose mother tongue is different from the language spoken in the host community; while some schools face all of these challenges at the same time.
This spring, Jennifer “Jenn” Wood became the new on-campus English Language/Immigrant Support Specialist. It is his experience and mission to lead such challenges at UNM-Taos.
Wood has worked with adults and young people in a variety of educational settings for 30 years as a teacher, educational coach, workshop leader, public historian and researcher. She is a qualified teacher specializing in English language acquisition and holds a Masters of Education in International Education.
Much of the work she will do at UNM-Taos is similar to what she has done before – teaching multilingual/multicultural individuals, curriculum development, community collaboration, student advocacy, and educational coaching. The change for her is the location. Wood most recently lived in Germany for over 15 years, where she worked with people from refugee and migrant backgrounds.
“Much of my experience in Europe has been with people from the Middle East, with a focus on women with interrupted or no formal education at all,” Wood said. “There is a lot to learn about Taos and the Southwest, and how I can adapt my skills and experience to benefit students and the community here.”
Her experience, she added, may not transfer directly into the context of Taos, but “indirectly there are aspects of lived experience that people from refugee and migrant backgrounds share – the needs of belonging, language and professional skills to initially survive and eventually thrive, creativity and self-expression, connection and well-being.
Wood has an approach that she hopes will translate easily: “Teaching a language to participate more fully in our communities, as best we can, and learning how to hold our own in a new part of the world when a new life unfolds, can help us move. towards belonging, connection and well-being.
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Wood has been visiting Taos for 20 years. She planned to come to Taos before the pandemic to “recalibrate and find out/plan what’s next.”
A writing workshop 20 years ago first brought her to Taos, which led her to find a meditation/wellness and creative community and friends.
“People I know here have a lot to do with the desire to experience Taos; not as a visitor,” she said.
Even so, a hop from Germany to Taos is quite a hop. But the timing was perfect.
“I had finished my projects/work at the moment and this was before the vaccine (COVID-19). I wanted to be closed to my loved ones so I came back to the North West in November 2020,” he said. she said, “A lot of international people have done it. It was a bit of a mix with the unknown.