At 6 years old, Dr. Arthur Boyer remembers his father stating, “you are going to be educated.” Growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, education was an invaluable tool, and for Boyer, his father took education very seriously.
Dedicated and studious, Boyer’s passion for French literature did not go unnoticed by his teachers. At 10 years old, he became interested in the topic, but it wasn’t until his junior year of high school that he began teaching French literature. “I had to do it secretively because I didn’t want my parents to know I was working,” he laughed. His knowledge and passion led his teachers to call him “Boileau,” which refers to Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux who was a French poet and critic and worked to “reform the prevailing form of French poetry.”
Growing up hearing the Creole and French languages, Boyer began learning English, Spanish and some Latin while in high school. “In Haiti, you must learn English and Spanish during your six years of high school,” he explained.
Celebrating his high school graduation, his parents petitioned him to receive a visa so he could travel to the U.S. for two weeks. Little did he know two weeks would turn into what has now been 25 years. Arriving in the U.S. with his mother on September 18, 1991, his two weeks went quickly, and he planned to return to Haiti to attend university; however, his mother had other plans.
“I wanted to go back to Haiti; however, my mother did not want me to return because of the difficulties our country was facing at the time. She ended up hiding my passport from me,” he said.
Since his desire to return to Haiti was dashed, he began strengthening his English by attending an adult education school in Immokalee. Engulfing himself in learning the language, he stopped using his native language in all interactions. Day-to-day activities such as listening to the radio, watching TV and reading were in English. During his fourth week of class, Boyer made a statement, which holds true to this day, saying, “I told my teacher I wanted to be an English teacher, and even if it were for one day, I would be the happiest man on earth.”
Realizing he needed to find work, he served as a farm worker in Immokalee for many years. Over the years, he worked as a translator before opting to try something new. A friend introduced him to the world of radio broadcasting, and for 20 years, he led his own talk show, produced and served as a political commentator.
However, in 2000, after living in the U.S. as an illegal immigrant for nine years, his status was changed to legal. Declaring it a “game-changing” year, he said, “I was 30 years old, and I decided to make it to college.” Attending Southwest Florida College, he earned an associate degree in criminal justice in 2002 before enrolling at Hodges (known as International College at the time) for a bachelor’s in criminal justice.
“At the time, I was thinking I would pursue a career maybe in law enforcement. As a child, I wanted to be an Army general,” he said. Graduating in 2004, his pursuit for higher education did not stop, and in the same year, he began the master’s program in public administration at Hodges. During his two-year program, he taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at Collier County Public Schools and Barry University. In addition, he worked with the Guadalupe Center to develop a GED prep course to help people prepare and become proficient for college and the working world.
Graduating with his master’s in 2009, he immediately enrolled in the organizational leadership doctoral program at Argosy University – Sarasota and joined Hodges’ ESL department as an adjunct faculty member.
“I always tell my students, ‘welcome to the show,’ because we are there to have fun learning. The information I provide to them, I want them to come back and bring their family and friends,” he said.
Teaching all ESL levels and topic areas, including listening/speaking, grammar and reading/writing, Boyer said, “Students don’t have to be the smartest or most prepared. Just come to class and learn.”
As a professor, he strives to create the best learning environment for his students, and while many face difficult challenges such as moving to the U.S. and simply “living” in this country, Boyer wishes to do more than just enhance their English-speaking skills. He wants to help with the transition.
One project Boyer makes his students complete is a presentation at the end of the semester, which requires them to address the statement, “My life in the next 10 years.” Requesting a timeline with years and specified goals such as, dreams, education, work, and family, he views the project as an opportunity for students to “add values to themselves and be their own cheerleader.”
“I love being a part of the ESL program at Hodges. We are truly changing lives. It’s all about having fun, and I teach to make life better,” he admits. “I have learned a lot from Hodges, and it has made me the person I am today.”
While helping students reach their goals, Boyer reached his own goal by graduating with his doctorate in 2015. Since graduating, he has balanced his time between Hodges, serving as a motivational speaker, an accounting lecturer and dean of academic affairs at Southwestern Vocational Training, a political radio commentator, and an organizational leadership and academic coach. In addition, he is the author of three books, “Managing Multiculturalism in the Classroom” and “Obsession.” He is also preparing for a Southwest Florida book tour featuring his book, “I Dreamed it! I Did It!” detailing his American journey, which began 25 years ago.