The moment James Hunter knew he wanted to become an ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor occurred over 7,000 miles away from his office located in the Shoenberg Center at Gonzaga University. Hunter, a native of England, spent a gap year after high school informally studying in Japan before attending university.
In Japan, Hunter taught himself to read and communicate in Japanese while doing some teaching on the side. It was during this teaching that Hunter realized he wanted to be an English language instructor.
“That is when I really started to get into it,” Hunter said. “I realized, ‘oh, this is more than just a way to make money, it is actually fun.”
Hunter, 47, grew up in a household of teachers and administrators involved with cultural relations, which he says also impacted his career choice. “I just sort of fell into it,” Hunter said. His mother was a teacher, while his father held a job as an administrator overseeing teachers in the British Council, acting as a diplomat sharing the English language with other countries. His father’s job took the family to various parts of the world.
After studying in England at the University of Sheffield, Hunter married Bridget Green, who teaches alongside Hunter at GU. The couple moved oversees to Green’s hometown of Spokane with their firstborn child in 1993 to be closer to extended family.
Hunter started a part-time teaching job at Gonzaga while obtaining his Master’s degree in TESOL (Teachers of English to Others as a Second Language) at Eastern Washington University. He was then offered a full-time position in GU’s ESL program and has worked there ever since as an Associate Professor of ESL/TESL and the Director of the TESOL Master’s Program.
Teaching at GU is a job that Hunter relishes for many reasons. “My favorite part is the people,” he said. “I have great colleagues and students who are energizing, and class is always fun too.”
One student of his is Katie Nollenberger, a graduate student in the TESOL program. She acknowledged that Hunter’s extensive background and cross-cultural experiences make him a valuable resource for students.
“My experience with him is that he is incredibly patient, which as I’m learning, is an invaluable skill of a teacher,” Nollenberger said. “Also, he challenges his students to critically question material and does it without the slightest bit of condescension or superiority.”
Hunter also enjoys GU’s transition towards a more global and diverse community. “Things are changing at the moment,” he said. “Yes we are teaching English, but we are also contributing to the change of Gonzaga’s culture. We want domestic students to understand we are more globally diverse as a community.”
Hunter is no stranger to global and cultural changes, as he has lived and traveled in all different parts of the world teaching English. In 2000 and 2009, he took leaves of absence from GU and moved to Japan and Abu Dhabi, respectively, with his wife and three children.
He and his family spent two years in Japan and one year in Abu Dhabi while teaching English in the local schools. “As a teacher of English, it is beneficial to live in a foreign country, so there was no problem with the school with taking a leave of absence,” Hunter said.
Last summer, Hunter furthered his world travels when he visited Ireland with his band, The Floating Crowbar. Music is a favorite pastime of Hunter’s, particularly traditional Irish music. The band frequently plays at Hills’ Restaurant and Lounge in Spokane and used the money saved from gigs to finance the trip.
Now entering his 25th year as an ESL instructor, Hunter hopes to share his love of travel and culture with students. “I want to promote the understanding about our shared humanity,” he said. “To learn to be respectful, learn other’s differences, become curious, and have students get excited.”
It is also his hope that the students he trains to be ESL teachers become skilled and qualified while finding joy in their job. “My goal is to make my profession more professional, but also make language teaching just fun,” Hunter said.
By Madison Keaty