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Adult ESL classes designed to aid parents, level playing field

My mother is slim.
She is short.
She has green eyes and long brown hair.

This exercise in describing people is not for pre-schoolers or kindergartners, but for parents who are committed to learning English.

Varnett’s Adult English-as-Second Language program runs 30 minutes a day and four days a week, with East Campus PE Coach Jean Carlo DeLeón at the helm. In this case, the students are Spanish-speaking adults who refuse to believe it’s too late to learn another language. “The main focus is for them to be able to talk and read English and help their kids learn,” Mr. DeLeon said.

Each day, about 15 parents gather into the East Campus library and work on English exercises assigned by Mr. DeLeón. He walks from table to table and helps any individual who needs it. So far, the classes have focused on pronunciation of the English alphabet, numbers, days and months, personal pronouns, matching opposite words, and much more.

During a recent exercise called “Keys to Communication in the Classroom,” the parents were asked to write sentences that included words such as “listen,” “notebook,” “repeat after me” “show me,” and  “expiration date” to name just a few. One parent appeared to be stuck so Mr. DeLeón helped her along: “The magazine has an expiration date,” he said.

With the Hispanic student enrollment increasingly growing, Varnett has been at the forefront of providing educational help for Spanish-speaking people, whether they are parents or students. Communication is crucial between parents and teachers and it’s imperative that they are on the same page when reviewing or discussing a student’s performance. The class also empowers Hispanic parents to better help their children with homework and participate in school activities. The diverse culture of Varnett includes the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) and Cinco de Mayo, when all students take part in learning activities in and outside the classroom.

Learning the English language has further advantages as well, such as increasing your odds for employment and improving your understanding of English for life or work.

“We started with the ABC’s and now we’re doing reading,” said Mr. DeLeón, who hails from Puerto Rico and is in his first year at Varnett. The free class, which continues through the school year, started out with about 30 parents, but about half dropped out.

One parent who has stayed the course is Yolanda Orellana, who has two children at East Campus. “It’s good for me to learn English,” she said slowly in English. Through an interpreter, Mr. DeLeón, she added:   “I enrolled to be able to learn the language and help my two children with homework. I have improved in reading and how to interpret sounds.”

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