Forrest Verellen

I worked at the Grand Canyon for three years. I originally started off as a visitor use assistant where I would sell park passes to visitors and direct them to different points of interest in the park. I finished as a remittance technician where I was in charge of counting, depositing and reconciling all of the funds that entered the park. In some way, those jobs are similar to my current one – I’m dealing with a lot of non-native speakers and I’m educating people in both jobs, only in the park I educated them in their safety and some facts about the park whereas teaching English is a more useful, lifelong skill.

I have a lot of silly tourist stories. At the Grand Canyon, we have a lot of elk and there were a couple of times where I was charged by an elk. I was on one of my runs in the morning, before work, I was just running and a visitor comes out from behind the tree and says: “That elk is chasing us.” and I turn around and lo and behold, it’s there. Now, I walk away a little bit and it starts following. I tell the woman to keep going. I don’t think she knew I was a ranger, I wasn’t in a uniform. But he still kept following us.

One of the ways you can prevent elk from chasing you is to make yourself look very big and make clapping noises, because they don’t like the noise, it kind of scatters them. And so I did that and he still followed, but at a further distance and… I repeated this a couple of times and I couldn’t resist pulling off a: “You go, I’ll fend him off” line. Eventually, the gap between us got big enough so I was able to continue on my run.

The most interesting things about teaching are all of the little facts you find out about people. For example, I’ll be at Porsche and doing a lesson on hip-hop and rap with one student and the same week, another lesson on fishing with someone else in the same week. It’s just the unexpected things like that that people have interests in, and it’s great that I can help people converse in them in another language.