13 Feb Adult Education 101

BY JILL JOSEPH ROZA

As an administrator and former teacher, I have always enjoyed seeing students walking down the hallways on that first day of school, clutching their new notebooks and supplies, ready to take on the world. This was just a taste of what I would experience as we set out to bring adult education to the Celina community.

The concept started in 2009 when my daughter observed a grant-funded adult literacy program for ELLs (English Language Learners) in northwest Arkansas. The grant required adult students to attend class with their child for an hour each morning, followed by a two-hour ESL (English as a Second Language) class to review the concepts covered earlier.

I will never forget the first phone call I made to that campus to learn more about their program. Since I was calling after school hours, I was not even sure anyone would answer. As it turned out, the campus literacy coordinator was out of the building for the day, and administration was giving a new family a tour of the facility.

But as luck would have it, the building custodian answered the phone… and I spent the next thirty minutes speaking to someone who knew first-hand what the program meant to the community!

After I explained the reason for the call, she said, “I hope you don’t mind speaking to the custodian, but I would love to talk with you about it because I was once a student in the program.”

I was immediately taken back. The woman at the other end of the line was speaking fluently, giving no hint that she had ever struggled to speak or understand English!

She first explained the history of the program. It began with a family who had several children in the school system. The principal had met the young mother as she was bringing her oldest child to Kindergarten. The mother could not speak or understand English and was wary of making eye contact, but she always smiled when she dropped off and picked up her child each day.

And she was interested in learning English. She still had four young children at home, but the grant covered childcare as well as ESL classes. So by the time her youngest child reached Kindergarten, the mother happily made eye contact, spoke to everyone she met, and was a full-time campus volunteer and an advocate for ESL classes.

Armed with this information, and with the help of community members such as Jimbo’s Pizza owner Dago Rodriguez, we started our first adult ESL classes in the Celina ISD intermediate building in the spring of 2010. And watching those adults walk down the hallway, clutching their spiral notebooks and pristine supplies, gave me the same joyful feeling I had always had watching my young students on their first day of class.

Celina continues to offer the adult education program to our community, due in part to our partnership with Denton ISD’s program director Steve Johnson and coordinator Daniel Correa. Ms. Marilyn Chamberlin, director of technology for Celina ISD, has taught the classes for the past three years. She also has extensive experience with technology, so it is not uncommon to see her students working on iPads or computers, engaged in one of many educational games loaded on these devices.

Mrs. Corina Ramos, bilingual liaison for Celina ISD, coordinates free childcare for students who could not attend class, otherwise. Mrs. Ramos is not only a blessing to the children, but is a true testament to the adult students, as well. Being fluent in both English and Spanish, she shows them that with hard work and perseverance, they can accomplish their goals to master a second language.

A few years ago, a young mother enrolled in her first ESL class at CTOWN with much the same apprehension as the mother who prompted the literacy grant in Arkansas. As she filled out paperwork, her three-year old son was having great difficulty speaking and even understanding any English. Two years later, this same young man was selected as one of the Superintendent winners for his exceptional work in the classroom. Because of the adult ESL classes, success stories like his are becoming more frequent—demonstrating a win-win situation for the school district and the community alike.