Boomer Beat: Author and ESL teacher builds community

With Hanukkah and Thanksgiving just behind us and Christmas and New Year’s Day coming up, it is natural for us to be thinking about the things that really count in life. One of those who has thought long and hard about what she cherishes in life is boomer Lisa Anderson-McCord. 

Lisa is an import to the region. She was born in a small town in Minnesota. At a very young age, her family was scarred by the loss of her father and older sister in an accident on Lake Superior. Although her family moved to the Crystal Lake, Lisa never lost a sense of connectedness with the small town where her roots lay. Indeed, it is the sense of community she found when she spent summers there that has inspired much of who she is today. 

Lisa has been a journal-keeper since her youth. When her mother died, she decided she would take a giant step as a writer and tackle a book project. The result is “Flynn’s Boarding House.” It is no coincidence the boarding house in the story strongly resembles the house where Lisa’s mother grew up, and the town where the boarding house is located resembles Lisa’s Minnesota birthplace. 

Without giving it away, I can tell you the story of “Flynn’s Boarding House” is set during the holiday season. The plot begins to roll out as a stranger named Joshua Davidson arrives in town. With his presence, wonderful things begin to happen in the lives of the townsfolk. When a crisis occurs, the community comes together, and mysteriously, Joshua is at the center of events. 

Lisa’s story is one in a long line of stories stretching back thousands of years in Western religious traditions. In the days of Abraham and Moses, it was a divine edict that one must always welcome and protect the stranger, or sojourner, who appears at your door. Even now, almost two thousand years after the life of Jesus, stories flourish that encourage care for the stranger who may, in fact, be a divine ambassador. When hospitality abounds, community flourishes. 

At the heart of her life, Lisa is a community builder. 

I first met Lisa while training to be an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at McHenry County College. As part of my preparation, I attended a class Lisa taught and was inspired by the way she was able to help her students. Afterward, I asked her how she became involved in ESL. When pregnant with her youngest, she went looking for a part-time position so she could be home during the day with her baby. Ever since then, ESL has become an increasingly important part of her life, so much so she has taken the initiative to start new projects even while continuing at MCC. 

Lisa majored in criminal justice and recreation when she was in college and had worked as a director of recreation at the former Dwight Correctional Center. With this experience, she was welcomed at the McHenry County Jail, where English as a Second Language classes were in high demand. Lisa finds her students hungry to learn.

“When I am teaching a class,” she said, “you can hear a pin drop.” What a charge it must be to have such motivated students. 

Her own hunger to take the next step in sharing her talents has led Lisa to begin an enterprise called Stepping Out. Through Stepping Out, Lisa has brought her ESL skills to bear in McHenry County workplaces where employees are eager to learn English and employers are eager to improve communication. Lisa is able to identify specific language needs that increase productivity and worker satisfaction.

In one company, she targeted the language needed for the use of a computerized scanner and developed a one-page communication guide that enabled workers and managers to talk about the use of the machines. Today, she is rightfully proud to say English skills have improved to the point where the communication guide is no-longer needed. 

Whether at McHenry County College, the McHenry County Jail or her own Stepping Out business, Lisa is building bridges between people. She is part of what makes our community strong. 

Lisa can be reached at Copies of “Flynn’s Boarding House” can be ordered from Tate Publishers, or directly from Lisa. She also is available for book signings and speaking events. 

• Sue Neuschel shares her experiences as a Baby Boomer, offers unique places to visit in and around McHenry County. She can be reached at

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