Scottsdale Salutes library ESL teacher Marietta Strano

Marietta Strano

Marietta Strano

After a career of special needs education, and five years of teaching English in China, Scottsdale resident Marietta Strano is now a volunteer for the city.

Ms. Strano teaches English as a Second Language, commonly referred to as ESL, classes every Thursday at the Civic Center Library, 3839 N. Drinkwater Blvd. in Scottsdale.

“From day one, obviously the need was there,” said Ms. Strano in an interview on Aug. 10. “It was just a question of putting it in place.”

When first approaching the library she had to wait for a position to be available. A spot eventually opened at the Mustang Library, where she worked for a few months before reintroducing the program at the Civic Center Library.

Ms. Stano understands the barriers that foreigners face when living in a new country — she herself lived in China for five years before moving to Scottsdale.

“Now I know what they mean, because I lived in another country; they don’t have the opportunity to speak casually with another native speaker, other than just a bank teller and at the supermarket,” said Ms. Strano.

Desire and curiosity is what fueled Ms. Strano’s passion to work for a college in southwest China.

“What you read is one thing and what you see out on the streets is another,” said Ms. Strano. “I wanted to work for a country that had a different kind of system then we had, and see what that was like. It was interesting.

“China is not much different than America, except they have a different Constitution; but it’s definitely a socialistic communist country. It’s just amazing how the society has found its own way of functioning within the confines, and not much different than us. It’s fascinating, especially being at the college level.”

Once back from China, Ms. Strano knew she wanted to continue working in her field of global communications, an area she had been involved with since 1988.

Her weekly classes draw an average of 15 students each week, and sometimes reach up to 21 students, according to Ms. Strano.

“It’s not an English class per se, no tests, no textbooks; you don’t have to enroll, it’s a revolving-door program so you can come and go,” said Ms. Strano. “But they come and they don’t go.”

The program is a surprise to some residents in the community, she said, because most people assume all her students are from Mexico due to our geological location.

“At first we were informed that it might be a larger Hispanic group, but it’s not at all,” said Ms. Strano. “Although we want to do more outreach and find that group, they come from all over the world for different reasons.”

“Recently one of our students departed and went back to France,” said Ms. Strano. “She said the most important thing about the program was that she felt so much more confident in using English that she already knew, but then learned more, and now she says she has no qualms about going up to a native speaker.”

ESL programs are available at the Mustang, Civic Center, Arabian and Appaloosa libraries.

“It has really taken off and I’m really happy to be a part of that,” said Ms. Strano.

For more information about the Scottsdale library programs, visit

Have a deserving volunteer you’d like to see us feature in an upcoming “Scottsdale Salutes?” E-mail Melissa Fittro at

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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