Julie Jodie became very attached to the German exchange student who stayed with her family, and during Marco’s year in her home, she watched him struggle with language and cultural differences. After Marco went back to Europe, Julie decided to help Lake Highlands residents, particularly parents of elementary students, improve their English through the Richardson Adult Literacy Center (RALC).
On Wednesday and Friday afternoons, you’ll find Julie teaching moms from Northlake and Lake Highlands Elementary at the Audelia Road Library. The women hail from Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras, primarily, but they have one thing in common – they want to learn English.
“I was attracted to the idea of teaching the class for two reasons,” says Julie. “I was looking for a way to volunteer where I could work directly with people and be able to establish a relationship, and, due to Marco’s struggles, I felt like I could relate well to the challenges of the students.”
Katie Patterson, Executive Director of RALC, says the parents in Julie’s classes – and classes all over RISD – want to learn or improve their English so they can gain better employment, help their children in school and become more involved community members.
“We currently work with parents at Wallace and Stults Road, in addition to community members through the Audelia Road Library – many of whom are Northlake parents. We expect to add Skyview and Forest Lane Academy in the spring. This fall we are teaching 16 classes through our “ESL for Parents” program and 16 classes through our “ESL for Adults” program. We use trained volunteers to teach our classes, and these programs include more than 60 volunteer ESL teachers.”
Katie wasted no time on her recruitment pitch.
“You don’t have to speak another language to teach English,” she shares, “and our training and curriculum guide native English speakers through how to teach English to speakers of other languages. Our students speak 25 different languages and come from more than 35 different countries around the world.”
ESL for Parents is offered during the school day and spans a 10-week semester, while ESL for Adults is offered both day and night and lasts 15 weeks each session. Locations vary.
“The women in my class are inspirational to me,” adds Julie. ”They are working hard to make a better life for themselves and their families. It is very difficult for them to improve, because they speak Spanish at home. They have all been in the U.S. for several years, but now that their children are school age and fluent in English, they want to be more active in their children’s schools and be able to relate to the teachers and other parents.”
If you didn’t know better, you might think Julie was speaking about her own children.
“I definitely think their confidence has improved. Right now the session is over, but we are continuing to meet on Wednesdays because they want to continue practicing until we start again in the spring. It takes a long time to master the language, but I think knowing that they can communicate with me has been positive. They also have found support in each other. They have started an online chat to practice with each other. I have really enjoyed getting to know the women and learning about their lives. I am also enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill. The only teaching I had done before this was Sunday school and vacation bible school. It takes quite a bit of preparation for each lesson, but I have gotten faster each week. I tell them they are learning English, and I am learning to teach English.”
If you think you might like to join Julie as an ESL teacher, you can find out more here. Volunteer translators are also needed to make check-in phone calls to students in their native language, and experienced teachers are needed as mentors. If you’d like to make a financial donation, that will be gratefully accepted here.