English as a Second Language

Highlight on ESOL students


Photo by: Savannah Jones

From China to Pittsburg Kansas, Lijun Zhu has taught in different parts of the world. Zhu began teaching in the English as a Second Language (ESOL) program for Pittsburg High School this year, but is not entirely new to the school.

Zhu was studying at a university in China when the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) interviewed her. PHS received a grant program that would allow them to hire Zhu for a new Chinese foreign language program, however this program expired in two years, and Zhu applied for a job in Wichita.

“When the grant was gone, I applied for another job in Wichita and I stayed there for eight years,” said Zhu. “I taught a foreign language, Chinese, and [I] worked with ESOL students since I have an ESOL endorsement.”

However, the end of the grant was not the end of her career at PHS.

“Just a few months ago me and my husband decided to come back because my husband had lived in this area, and they had an opening here in Pittsburg,” Zhu said.

Zhu faces challenges as the ESOL teacher. Zhu doesn’t speak Spanish, which all but one of her students speak. Many understand spoken English. Depending on the level of English they understand, Zhu uses specific techniques to work around the language barrier to help the students in ESOL.

“Of course we try to use the English they can understand and we use a lot of visual pictures and audio languages to help them.”

Junior Marisol Salas is in her second year in ESOL. Salas immigrated here from Mexico last year and relies an ESOL paraprofessional educator (a para) for most of her classes.

“I have help in some of my classes but not all of them. For example we have help in my science class. Theatre is the only class I do not receive help,” Salas said.

Of course we try to use the English they can understand and we use a lot of visual pictures and audio languages to help them.

— Lijun Zhu

Junior Adelma Tokkie Samuel is the only student in the program who does not speak Spanish.

Samuel, who moved to Pittsburg for school, speaks Marshallese. She moved to Pittsburg from the Marshall Islands this year and currently lives with her grandmother and aunt.

Samuel said the program is beneficial for students like her.

Students like Samuel and Salas in the ESOL program face similar issues in the mainstream classes. Oftentimes, they find themselves struggling in those classes.

“When they are in the mainstream classes, they tend to be very quiet because most of them speak English. They are afraid to say something wrong in English. Language is the first barrier, but they’re supposed to learn English in my class, so I just try to make them more comfortable so they are not afraid to speak up,” Zhu said.