Get to Know HFC: ELI Director Molly McCord has a passion for language

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A headshot of Molly McCord.

HFC English Language Institute director and English instructor Molly McCord grew up in a family of educators.

“My dad was a school psychologist and taught at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. My mom was a library aide. I didn’t really grow up wanting to be a teacher. I did not pursue it during my undergrad years. But I enjoyed teaching English Language Learners (students who have limited English language proficiency) and realized that was the route for me. The teacher in me worked its way out,” explained McCord.

Fascinating to see language development

Born in Traverse City, McCord is the youngest of two. She lives in Ypsilanti with Steven, her husband of nine years, their 4-year-old daughter, and dog. An Elk Rapids High School alumna, McCord earned her bachelor’s degree in linguistics and Spanish from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

McCord also has two master’s degrees. She earned a master’s degree in applied linguistics from the University of Massachusetts. She earned a master’s degree in written communication from Eastern Michigan University. She took additional graduate coursework at George Washington University.

“I’ve always been interested in the process of learning language and even how native speakers acquire their first language,” said McCord. “To me, it’s fascinating to see language development.”

McCord’s first foray into teaching was teaching English as a Foreign Language in Turkey for three months when she was an undergraduate and later in Switzerland for one year.

“It allowed me to experience totally different cultures,” she said. “Turkey was my first exposure to a new country and a new language – I loved it. Since I loved traveling and loved teaching English, I thought about teaching in a different country.”

“It was eye-opening to see the level of diversity”

After returning to the United States after her year in Switzerland, McCord took courses at GWU, where she was a research assistant. It was around this time she came across an ad about an opening at HFC (then Henry Ford Community College). She joined the HFC faculty in 2009.

“It worked out well because I wanted to be closer to my family in Michigan,” she confessed. “It was eye-opening to see the level of diversity here in Dearborn during my early days at the College and interact with different students. I was intimidated by it at first because I never had that level of exposure until coming to Dearborn. After I got to know the people, I got much more comfortable.”

Creating a pathway for ELL students

McCord has been the director of ELI since 2022. She reports to Pam Stewart, the Associate Dean of the HFC School of Liberal Arts.

During her time at HFC, McCord helped initiate the class Accelerated Learning Program for ELL: Reading and Writing. This is a co-requisite class with Introduction to College Writing.

“This course is designed for students coming out of the ELI and going into English 131. I wanted to help create that pathway for students. It made sense to offer it to ELI students and not just native English speakers,” explained McCord.

"Molly brings a wealth of teaching experience and strong leadership skills to the role of ELI director,” said Stewart. “As an early user of technology to provide on-demand student feedback, she encouraged her peers to consider new ways of offering students meaningful support to improve their writing.”

“A joy to work with”

For McCord, the best part of teaching is the relationships she develops with her students.

“I have the chance to get to know them as individuals. I hope the relationships are beneficial,” she said. “Because I care about each of my students personally, it can be difficult to see them struggle. There is an emotional impact of having to let a student know they haven’t passed a course. It’s hard not to let that affect me personally.”

In the end, McCord’s colleagues make it worthwhile.

“I love my colleagues. They’re great people. That’s a huge benefit and it creates a sense of camaraderie,” she said. “Everybody I work with is very supportive. My coworkers are wonderful and there’s a family feel here, especially working in the ELI.”

HFC ESL instructor Roger Frank, who reports to McCord, agreed.

"Molly is a great leader. She's collaborative and offers good advice when issues arise,” said Frank. “She helps all of us in the ELI focus on the success of our students. Molly is a joy to work with!"