|Holyoke ESL dept. outlines program|
|Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt|
English as a Second Language (ESL) students in Holyoke School District Re-1J are making great strides. An outline of the district’s program was given by teachers Desiree Mosenteen and Yesenia Bencomo at the May 3 school board meeting.
At the JR/SR High, Mosenteen said she has 56 students. This includes 16 who are taking English for credit and 40 who are receiving academic support in other content areas.
In grades K-6, Bencomo sees 73 students daily in 30-minute classes. She added they’re focusing on the K-2 groups, hoping to close the gaps between ESL and English-speaking students and to get the ESL students caught up.
Both acknowledged the extreme value of their aides who assist with the teaching. Verónica Núñez helps at the JR/SR High, and Christy Shafer at the Elementary School.
Mosenteen noted the Colorado Dept. of Education (CDE) came out to visit the local program in February. She said the CDE is excited about the model Holyoke is using and is encouraging other districts to adopt it.
Bencomo added the teachers were very pleased with the results from the CDE visit, as they received much positive feedback, as well as some recommendations. “We’re doing what the state wants us to,” she added.
The teachers are confident they’re aware of the recommendations and are already in the process of continuing their pursuit to assure the best possible education for English Language Learners (ELLs) in the district.
At the elementary, Bencomo said they’ve been communicating with administration about the potential of increasing the 30-minute sessions to perhaps 40 minutes. “The more time I get with students, the better it is,” she added.
Mosenteen highlighted some of the CDE positive feedback. CDE praised the desire to create an environment where all students are learners; commitment to improving instruction of ELLs by requesting the CDE walk-through; desire to collaborate with all parties involved.
Also ESL teachers are passionate about their program; climate of respect is evident; teachers demonstrate appreciation and encouragement of student contributions to the instruction; and content teachers demonstrate a standards-based approach to learning that is appropriate to the grade level.
Mosenteen said they’re currently awaiting results from the Colorado English Language Assessment (CELA) testing. She said they’re seeing such growth in the student MAPS scores, which is very exciting.
Great strides have been made in reading comprehension testing.
“This is when we get very passionate,” said Bencomo, citing the strides made in student testing. At the elementary level, she said students are starting to know where they need to be, and she added it’s great to be part of that process.
Record numbers attended the K-12 ESL parents night program this year. Mosenteen reported a crowd of 220. Bencomo added this shows the strength the program is gaining, as several years ago it was only a handful of people.
Parents night gives families a chance to hang out and be together. A demonstration was given to model interaction activities from the classroom, said Mosenteen.
Bencomo said a phone tree has been utilized and has been helpful to connect with parents. She added the Blackboard Connect system has been extremely useful this year.
Mosenteen cited the huge improvement in the graduation rate of ESL students in recent years. Supt. Bret Miles added the credit tied to the English classes for up to two years in the ESL program has made a difference too.
As part of the CDE feedback, Elementary Principal Kyle Stumpf said they gave some resources which could prove helpful.
JR/SR High Principal Susan Ortner said eighth graders attended a career fair in Lone Star last Monday. She said the kids in Mosenteen’s class Tuesday were excited about what they’d heard.
Board members praised Mosenteen and Bencomo for their passion and enthusiasm for their work. “What you do is absolutely critical to test scores in the district,” said Kim Killin.
The teachers plan to continue to collaborate with other teachers in the district, as well as administration, to enhance the ESL education and cultural awareness.