NORRISTOWN, Pa. (CBS) — A Norristown woman thought her dream of being a teacher was gone. Instead, she got a chance to fulfill her dream and help people in the process.

Carole Zappala left behind her childhood dream and worked as a medical transcriptionist for decades, but she stumbled into teaching in a way she never expected.

She moves a little slowly in her legs, but Carole Zappala still has a quick mind, and uses it to volunteer to teach English to recent immigrants, helping them learn to read and write in the main language of their new country.

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“I always say, ‘Imagine me standing in the middle of Burma trying to learn his language,’” Zappala said. “I don’t think I could do it.”

Carole always wanted to be a teacher, but she never became one. Then she saw an ad in her local paper: “The Literacy Council of Norristown was looking for teachers,” Zappala said. “And I said, ‘Let me take a step in the direction I should have been all my life.'”

At the same time, Jane Liu of China had just joined her husband in Pennsylvania.

“Either I could go back to China and continue my career as chief physician in China, or I stay here to keep my family together,” said Jane.

Carole’s day job was as a medical transcriptionist. The Literacy Council asked if Carole wanted to volunteer to teach Jane English.

“Would I be interested? I’ve waited my whole life!” laughed Carole. “Then the panic snuck in, and I thought, ‘Wait a minute. I’m going to have a student. I don’t know how to speak Chinese!'”

But through her training, Carole taught Jane the English she needed.

Jane eventually passed the tests to become a certified acupuncturist. Now the women say they’re like mother and daughter.

And Carole learned that it’s never to late too teach.

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For more information, contact The Literacy Council of Norristown

Reported by Dave Huddleston, CBS3

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