First, the short version:
Hi, I am BJ Hill, a 30 year old teacher of English as a Second Language. I am a graduate of Northeastern University and I take classes part-time at Worcester State College. I split my time between my hometown of Leicester (next to Worcester) and my apartment in Central Square in Cambridge.
Now, the long version:
I was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1976 and moved to Massachusetts with my Mom when I was two. I grew up in Leicester, earned my Eagle Scout, and graduated from St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury. I went on study sociology at Northeastern University in Boston, where I wrote for the school newspaper, played bass for the concert and pep bands, and DJ’ed a late night radio show.
In university, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in some great programs, such as a summer researching domestic violence for Université Laval in Québec, a semester studying non-fiction writing at the Salt School for Documentary Field Studies in Portland, Maine, and a year abroad learning Spanish at la Universidad de las Americas-Puebla in Mexico. During my Christmas vacation in Mexico, I felt I needed a boost to my Spanish, so I spent twelve days hiking across the country, from Coatzalcoas in Vera Cruz to Salina Cruz in Oaxaca. It was an eye-opening experience, meeting and living with families in one of the world’s poorest areas. When I returned, I wrote a full account of that voyage.
After graduating from Northeastern in 2000, I spent the summer backpacking cross-country on a Greyhound bus. My pass ran out while I was in Seattle, and I hitchhiked back home through Canada.
I returned to Boston in the fall and worked several part-time tutoring jobs.
In January 2001, I volunteered for a fantastic federal program called AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. Based out of Denver, my team and I helped with service projects for several non-profits agencies all around the Midwest. We served as teacher’s aides at Excelsior High School for at-risk females in Denver, personal care attendants at Camp Sunnyside Easter Seals Camp in Des Moines, Iowa, and after school tutors for the SuAnne Big Crow Boys and Girls Club on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Traveling, living, working, eating and sleeping with my other teammates was like half Real World, half Road Rules, just without the cameras. Our proudest moment, though, was serving our country after September 11th, when we were called up to Virginia to help operate a phone bank for the American Red Cross.
In 2002 I returned to Massachusetts and worked in the IT Department at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Inspired by the heroes of 9/11, I studied and passed the state exam to become an Emergency Medical Technician.
In the summer of 2002 I was accepted to the JET Programme to teach in Japan. I was fortunate in that I was placed in a small, friendly town, named Koori (the sister city of Elizabethtown, KY), just a few hours north of Tokyo. The JET Programme is one of the best organizations for teaching in Japan, but at the time having an English teacher specifically for elementary school was still kind of a pilot program. As such, I had a lot of liberty to design my own lesson plans. With a little creativity – plus a lot of patience on the part of the other teachers – I had some great experiences, such as explaining an American handshake, making hand turkeys for Thanksgiving, and introducing the idea of trick-or-treating to the town. And, of course, watching my students piece together subjects, verbs, and objects to make their first English sentences.
I also had the opportunity to travel around Asia. On my first summer vacation in Japan, I volunteered to teach English for a local NGO in
Kabul, Afghanistan. In the summer of 2004, I volunteered to teach at an orphanage in Shijiazhung, China (the orphanage was actually in a chemical factory!!).
I returned home in the fall of 2004 and enrolled in a pre-med science program at Worcester State College. When I wasn’t in class, I was substitute teaching in schools around Central Mass.
In the summer of 2005, some big changes occurred in my family. I put the plans to go to medical school on hold and moved into an apartment in Central Square in Cambridge. I found a job teaching ESL at the New England School of English in Harvard Square. When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, I volunteered for the Red Cross. I was deployed to the Houston area to provide medical care in a shelter for the evacuees of Hurricane Rita.
I returned to Cambridge, but left NESE in March 2006. I craigslisted for work, and found a couple of gigs helping renovate houses. I began helping on a political campaign and I was invited to join the Member’s Council of the Worcester Art Museum. In July, I moved to Northwest Indiana to be closer to my girlfriend. While there, I wrote my first magazine article for a regional publication called Lake Magazine. I also became a certified CPR Instructor.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with the girl, so a month later I packed my car and drove back home. Since then, I have been dividing my time between Leicester and Cambridge and looking for a public school teaching position. Which now brings me to the Why Walk? page.
JAN. 2007 UPDATE: After finishing the walk, I gladly accepted a position with the Winchester High School Special Ed Department. I work in the school Learning Center, helping students organize their time, understand material, and complete assignments. I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of a strong school system with bright students and very supportive colleagues.