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Lawyer Finds Best Way To Pay It Forward And Honor “Angel” Who Taught Her English.

Esther Lim and Jean Herbert

It takes a lot of courage to immigrate from your native country in search of a better life.

In 1983, Esther Lim was 12 years old when her family left South Korea to make a new home in Edgewood, Maryland. She was nervous about starting school in a new country, especially because neither she nor her parents or siblings spoke English.

“I was so scared, couldn’t speak a word of English and in a whole new country, no friends, and starting at a brand new school where I was the only Asian,” Esther recalled.

But the moment she set foot inside Mrs. Jean Herbert’s 7th-grade classroom, she felt at ease. Jean started teaching late in life, taking her first job in the classroom at age 45. As soon as she saw Esther, she sensed the girl was intelligent but frustrated by her lack of communication skills.

“I could see in her right away, that there was something inherent that needed to be nurtured,” Jean said.

Jean made Esther feel valued – a feeling the girl never forgot. She says Jean was the “first angel in America” in her immigration story.

At the end of the school year, Jean called Esther’s father and told him she’d need extra help over the summer. The next thing the teacher knew, she had agreed to tutor not just Esther, but her mother and siblings, too! All summer long the Lims met at Jean’s home and sat around the kitchen table, learning English. She accepted no compensation for this kindness.

“I knew that they didn’t have the money, and I knew that they certainly had the need,” she explained. “I think, really, throughout this life, that’s what we’re called to do. To help others, that’s what we’re called to do, is to help one another.”

Their relationship only deepened over the years. Jean became an invaluable friend and resource for the family. She even talked her mother into letting Esther and her sister live with her while they attended her alma mater, Towson University.

With Jean’s support, Esther graduated from college and went on to become a well-respected lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Esther never forgot who helped her along the way, so she decided to surprise Jean by establishing a scholarship at Towson University in her honor. The pair sat down with NBC’s Donna Farizan so Esther could tell Jean the good news. Esther began by reading the teacher a letter.

“From the first day in your science class, you made me feel seen and loved,” Esther read aloud. “The stepping stones leading to my career can be traced back to you being my first teacher in America. Thank you for becoming a teacher, and for being mine.”

Jean was overcome with emotion when Donna and Esther told her that Towson University’s College of Education established the “Mrs. Jean Herbert Scholarship Fund.” The Bojangles corporation donated $10,000 to set up the scholarship and gave 100 books to the English language library in her name.

Esther said the scholarship is, “such a fitting tribute to celebrate Mrs. Herbert, and for all the teachers around the country that give selflessly, day in and day out.”

Teachers really are the heart and soul of our great country. We’re so glad Jean was there to welcome Esther and her family to the United States, and we agree, this is the perfect way to honor her kindness!

Watch the video below to learn more about this story, and don’t forget to share.

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