Meet the staff – Cheryl Ruddy

HopeWorks is blessed with passionate staff who care about our students and want them to succeed. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Cheryl Ruddy, one of our ESL instructors. Cheryl’s desire to help others and share the love of Christ is infectious, and we’re so grateful she’s a part of our team. Keep reading to learn more about her and why she believes hope works!

When did you start working at HopeWorks?

I started at HopeWorks in 2017. Prior to this, I worked for the nonprofit World Teach in Botswana (where I met my husband and had my first child) and taught preschool and tutored at the Collierville Literacy Council. I recently decided to return to school for my TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification when HopeWorks began its ESL program. My family and I were longtime supporters of HopeWorks, so I told Ron I’d love to teach the course. It was perfect timing – it really felt like a God thing.

What is your favorite/the most meaningful part about working at HopeWorks?

It means so much to know I’m even a small part of someone’s new life in America, and that I’ve been given the opportunity to be a blessing and serve God while sharing about Him through my job.

Can you share a story related to your job (an instance where you’re reminded why you do what you do or that speaks to HopeWorks’ mission)?

Right before the pandemic in March 2020, a group of new students joined my class including two 19-year-old men from West Africa. When we transitioned to online classes, they took to it straight away and didn’t miss a beat. They were so consistent with class, but they were bored with their daily lives. They wanted to get their driver’s licenses so I asked the class if it was ok to use some of our time to study for the test. They agreed, and the two students were able to get their licenses. Neither of them had ever worked, but one day they said, ‘Teacher, we want jobs!’ A HopeWorks team member helped them create resumes and fill out applications. They used a family member’s car and started working while advancing through classes at HopeWorks. Then they enrolled in one of our IET programs, or Integrated Education and Training, which led to even better jobs! HopeWorks helped them do everything – it was amazing to see. They were a lot of fun to work with, and I’m sure they could see God working through HopeWorks.

Another thing I love about my job is that my students are also my friends. We have great relationships and meaningful discussions. They feel HopeWorks is a safe and comfortable place to share about their culture, and that means so much to me.

What does “hope works” mean to you?

These amazing people come here not knowing what their future holds, but they must at least have a glimmer of hope that we can help them. From there, we can grow that glimmer by encouraging them and building their confidence. We want them to be their best selves, not only for them but for their families.

For someone unfamiliar with HopeWorks, what’s one thing you’d like them to know?

I love our holistic approach to student success, beginning with demonstrating God’s love. It’s amazing how so many of us work together for just one student – teaching, counseling, mentoring, educating and training – and now we have Success Coaches who can walk them through the processes of their career path. Our ESL program concentrates on workforce and daily living language and vocabulary, but we also include civics, American culture, history and government to help them practice their skills and assist them in becoming active members of their communities.

Our curriculum teaches vocabulary for daily living, including real-life scenarios for home and work. For example, our students want to learn how to express themselves correctly in a job interview, which often involves answering questions in the present perfect tense (actions started in the past and continue now). This is great practice because our students are often asked, ‘How long have you been in America?’ That’s an example of the present perfect tense!

Our classes are extremely diverse. At any given time, there are students from multiple countries and cultures with ages ranging from 18-80. Students who have never been to school or haven’t been since childhood are in class with lawyers, engineers, professors, and even veterinarians, but this class levels the playing field. Despite their background or education, they’re all here for the same reason – to learn English. My goal is to make this a safe space where all are comfortable learning.

Our students are grateful. They’re thankful to be in America, to be in the class. It’s so different from teaching students in a traditional classroom setting because HopeWorks students choose to be here. They’re always so happy, regardless of what they’ve been through. I love hearing their stories, seeing their progress, watching them become citizens and succeed, then volunteering and wanting to give back. 

We have a great team at HopeWorks. This is my dream job!