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Classes embrace student diversity

Learning through language barriers

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Classes embrace student diversity

Photo by: Savannah Jones

Photo by: Savannah Jones

Photo by: Savannah Jones

Story by Patrick Sullivan, Reporter

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The high school’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program has grown exponentially.

The ESOL program has 51 students with 25 students receiving direct ESOL services. The program, led by ESOL teacher Lijun Zhu, has influenced other departments to teach classes solely for ESOL students. They are taught by Karen Curran (biology), Juli Holland (English), and Trevor Elliot (mathematics and history).

“[Classes] are designed for English-language learners (ELLs) who are pursuing proficiency in social and academic English language skills,” Zhu said. “When a student speaks a language other than English, we use the LAS Links test to determine their English proficiency level. If the student is not fluent, they qualify for the program.”

There are four levels of classes as well: newcomer, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Each student’s placement is based on their Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessment.

ESOL Algebra was offered after Elliott noticed some students needed extra assistance.

“There appeared to be a need for specific sections for the first semester due to the number of students needing language assistance in my regular Algebra I class,” Elliott said. “There would be some comfort in taking a course with students at the same language level.”

There are 19 students currently enrolled in ESOL Algebra and 13 in ESOL History.

Elliott believes strongly in a comfortable environment, which the ESOL classes try to create.

“Students are not as worried about speaking up due to their grasp of the English language,” Elliott said. “Being comfortable and confident in a classroom is very important.”

Holland understands the difficulty of teaching through the language barrier for students.

“I think it provides a safe place to learn and hone their English skills without judgment,” Holland said. “The fact that my students trust me and are willing to take educational risks in my class means the world to me. I hope that I am able to do them justice.”

Aware of the impact that ESOL classes have had on students, Zhu hopes to continue to grow the program.

The fact that my students trust me and are willing to take educational risks in my class means the world to me.”

— Juli Holland

“The ultimate goal of our ESOL program is to help our ELLs improve their English skills so they can succeed in the mainstream classrooms,” Zhu said. “English changed my life, so I want to pay if forward.”

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Classes embrace student diversity