My name is Manouchka. When I was 8 years old, the political situation had gotten so bad in Haiti, that it wasn't safe to live there. So, my parents emigrated to New York City leaving my sister and me with our grandparents. Two years later, in 1971, we joined our parents in New York. In Haiti, I had attended Catholic school where all instruction was conducted in French. When I started attending New York City public schools, I was placed in an all-English mainstream classroom. I also received English as a second language (ESL) instruction. No Haitian bilingual education services existed then. Actually, the first Haitian bilingual programs used French as the language of instruction, but that started long after I came. Not until the early 1980s did they start using Haitian-Creole in the bilingual programs.
Anyway, I did okay my first couple of years in school because my teacher knew some French. However, in seventh grade, I started having problems because my teachers understood nothing about my language or culture. I was really on my own because my English wasn't that great yet. I was terrified to speak in front of a group because in English class the children laughed and made fun of me. Psychologically I was at a loss. I remember becoming very introverted. Had I had Haitian teachers who spoke my language and knew where I was coming from, I might have felt more comfortable. That's the reason why I became a teacher, because of all the things that happened to me that I didn't like. I want to be in a position to be an advocate for kids who are coming in.
Somehow with the support from my parents who encouraged me, I was able to successfully continue my studies through high school and college, where I majored in special education. After graduating, I first taught monolingual. English-speaking elementary students in a private school. Then, because I still couldn't find a public school teaching job, I started working as a paraprofessional with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) special education students in the district where I work now. That job gave