Teaching English, 18 grads at a time

By Sharon Chang, Language Coordinator/ Americorps member

This past May, the Latin American Coalition celebrated another successful ESL (English as a Second Language) semester with 18 proud graduates and their families and friends. The graduation was complete with the handing out of certificates, the taking of pictures, smiling faces, and food…lots and lots of food.

This semester started weeks before the first day of class, as new students crowded the Coalition’s classroom, minds thinking, pens scribbling to complete the placement exam. Some exams were nearly blank and some nearly complete, each exam reflective of the student’s level of English proficiency.

On the first day of class on February 13, one of the new facets of this ESL semester began: a morning Basic level class, specifically geared toward stay-at-home moms. The other new component began the next evening: an Intermediate/Advanced class taught by one of our dedicated ESL volunteers, Logan Henderson, and new volunteer Shanta Spears. The other two classes, Beginner 1 and Beginner 2, also began that evening.

Speaking of Logan and Shanta, they are but two of the 8 dedicated instructors that commit their time, energy, and passion to the instruction of our students. Without our dedicated volunteers, the existence of the Coalition’s ESL Program would be absolutely impossible.

An instructor is encouraged when a student answers a question with, “I will try, I will try” and explains to her fellow students that if she doesn’t try, she will not learn. An instructor’s hopes are realized when a student’s placement test and his or her final exam is placed side by side, and the amount of progress is unquestionable. From a blank placement exam to a completed, 92% final exam, both the student’s and instructor’s hard work is rewarded.

As an ESL Coordinator on the evening of graduation, I smiled with pride as I congratulated all the students, running around the room taking pictures of smiling faces and proud families and enjoying the good food that all the students brought to share in community. But it was a student’s final parting comment that reaffirmed the purpose of and the reason for our ESL Program: “I’ve been other places to take classes, and yes, I learned some. But here, at the Latin American Coalition, I enjoy the community, I enjoy the teachers. And I think I’ve learned more and made more progress here, this semester, than anywhere else.”

Thank you to all our volunteers and congratulations to all our students.

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