ESL classes available at Nevada R-5 schools

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

By Nancy Malcom

Nevada Daily Mail

Julie Kibble, assistant principal at Truman Elementary School, is the ESL coordinator for the Nevada R-5 School District.

She also keeps numbers and makes educational provisions for students considered by federal guidelines as homeless (not living in permanent housing) or migrant, (those with families moving with crops) although this area has no one in those classifications at this time.

English as a Second Language tools are offered to students who qualify as having "limited English proficiency."

Because Nevada has limited English student numbers below the 22 needed for federal funding, no funding is provided for the local program.

Kibble explained, "We have reported ESL numbers for more than nine years. Our numbers are very small. We are considered a low incidents community. Because our numbers are so low we don't have a formal program in place. When numbers reach 22 limited English students, we have to have a full time certified ESL teacher who would address their needs. I do have three certified ESL teachers working in the regular classrooms. They have the classrooms where we would normally place a student who would have limited English abilities.

"For our purposes right now," Kibble added, "we utilize our Title 1 teachers who are reading specialists. We have an Early Literacy program at Bryan that all of our students receive and those with limited English skills naturally would be part of that program.

"We get no funding so we get creative instead. We base what we do on the needs of the children."

When a child comes in who speaks limited English, they are screened through various tests to see what they need. Teaching English as a Second Language noffers tools to school systems with small numbers of students needing ESL programs. These tools include workshops and conferences that help teachers cope with ESL problems. These programs do not qualify the teachers to be certified, but they are a lot of help, Kibble said.

For example, to help teachers cope with less common languages, there are programs on the Internet and specific sites to use for translation. Most of the documents that come from the Department of Education come in several different languages.

Kibble said that the numbers of ESL students have stayed pretty steady. "Right now in K-12 we have 11 ESL students," she said, then added, "A Japanese Exchange student isn't actually counted in our English limited count, but I have included her in these numbers." The need for programs for ESL students can be daunting, depending on the variety of languages spoken by the students.

"The majority we have now is Spanish," Kibble said. "We also have several Vietnamese, a couple of Arabic and African," She chuckled, "We recently had our first Hmong, which is a Chinese dialect speaking student recently. Fortunately for us, that child is fluent in English."

ESL students are not put into a room together and taught in their native language. Instead, they are mainstreamed into the regular classrooms and given before and after school tutoring as needed. This is an on-going process that the students utilize throughout their school years.

"It's not about teaching them in their own language," Kibble explained, "It is giving them skills to learn in English."

Although the school does purchase some Spanish language textbooks, and can get translated pages from educational Web sites, the focus is on teaching tools to help them become English fluent.

Kibble explained that one of the most difficult things for ESL students is math word problems. "They may have a good handle on math, but the word problem might be difficult," she said. "Some text books are in Spanish, but we don't want to give them too much in Spanish or they will fall back on that and not work with English. But it helps with science and math." She said that the younger a student is determined to have limited English skills, the easier it is for them.

"All the students in kindergarten and first grade are just starting to learn English themselves so they fit right in." It takes about seven years for limited English students to truly acquire English language skills.

"It's ongoing," Kibble said. "One young man has been here several years and is in high school. The Mac2 is a state assessment for limited English students. We monitor any student for at least two years after we determine they are no longer limited in English. We use many methods to make that determination." Some of the creative solutions to suddenly occurring problems, make Nevada's program unique. Kibble told of one incident.

"One student was dropped off the first day of kindergarten by his parents. He was 5 years old and spoke not a word of English. I freed the Spanish teacher in the middle school to help him that morning and to order his lunch choices. The lunch service is good to provides us with menus in the languages we may need."

In most of the ESL students' families, one or both parents primarily speak another language, although they may have some English skills. Often the ESL student becomes the family's only translator for many things, including shopping and business dealings.

Kibble said the school has teachers who are fluent in Spanish, but when other or obscure languages are presented, she turns to the community for help. "There are people in the community and international students at Cottey College who help with translation and even tutoring. We have the best community support! Not a single person has not volunteered any time I've asked for their help."

She feels the program has been successful. "I'm pleased. It's been very effective. A young man came to us in second grade. We utilized Title 1 teachers and community tutors. He seemed to be struggling, but we weren't sure if he was struggling because of the language, or if he thought it would make less work for him to do." She laughed. "But one day the teacher came to me and said he had tattled in English! We knew we had him then!" She told about another ESL student's progress. "A little fourth grade ESL student who is a fifth grader this year, always greets me in English."

Kibble said the role of their English speaking peers is important as well.

"The peers are eager and love to buddy up. Peer tutors are great and kids learn from kids faster than adults can teach them. They (ESL students) are very accepted across the board in all grade levels. I'm excited when we see these kids just come to us very timid and blossom and grow," Kibble said.

"They are so bright-eyed and excited when they can come and talk to you in English. Their parents are very proud of their accomplishments They want them to learn English and to fit in. That's been really rewarding. They are so proud of themselves," she paused and grinned, "even when they tattle."

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