English Classes For Love Families A ‘Blessing’

Delyann Fernandez (left) takes a selfie with her adult English classmates. The group gathers twice a week in the conference room at Love School to learn the English language.

Each week, a group of eight ladies make their way into the Love Elementary School conference room.

They come from different backgrounds and cultures. They are mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. And they are truly grateful — and motivated — by the opportunity that’s available to them.

Since September, this group has created a community while learning the English language — an opportunity made available for the first time at Love since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’re a nice core group of ladies,” said Love Elementary School principal Cindy Johnson. “They bring each other coffee and baked goods. It’s been amazing to see them build a network and build a community together.”

Led by retired ESL teacher Carolyn Sampson, who spent 16 years working with Love’s PACT (Parents and Children Together) program teaching similar adult English classes, the group meets twice a week for two hours. Sampson now volunteers her time to help her class learn the language in a program available only to Love families.

Ruth Velazquez (left) works with Carolyn Sampson, a retired ESL teacher who now volunteers her time to help teach adult English classes to Love families.

“It’s a beginning English class, but it’s not a total ‘Start at the beginning’ class,” Sampson said. “Many of them already know some English and have picked it up just through interaction. This is just trying to teach them the fundamentals of the language. It’s subjective to the students I have and I can change it based on what we’re doing.”

She added, “We’re following an English as a New Language curriculum. We’re just tailoring it to the students as much as possible.”

Much of the curriculum is tailored to the situation: English phrases and words they’ll need during visits to the doctor’s office, the Department of Motor Vehicles, or if they have to call the school to let them know that their child will be absent.

“It’s not just colors and numbers and more basic English,” Johnson said. “It’s the situational language.”

Ruth Velazquez came to Jamestown from Puerto Rico five years ago. She heard about the opportunity to learn English from a niece who attends Love School.

“I’ve become so much more comfortable now,” Velazquez said through a translator. “I’m practicing the language more. Before I couldn’t understand some English, but now I understand more when I overhear others speak it.”

Delyann Fernandez also is a native of Puerto Rico and has two children in the district.

“This has been a really great opportunity to learn English,” Fernandez said. “Everything that we learn and how we learn it here has been great.”

Other classmates have found the lessons useful in the daycare that they run or while working their shift at Kentucky Fried Chicken.

“A lot of them really work with English,” Sampson said. “Delyann works with her children. We did one little story for Christmas just as something fun and she was excited when she realized her son had read the same story in class. They are learning English on their own.”

And, they’re dedicated.

“There is always a core group here,” Johnson said. “Rarely do they miss a class.”

“Sometimes students want to come to class and they’re afraid to come to class, but after a while, they realize it’s okay when everyone is helping them,” Sampson said. “But this group has been really dedicated. They don’t really miss a class unless it’s something big.”

They’ve also developed quite the bond, according to their teacher.

“Every class is a little bit different, but they do tend to bond after a little while,” she said. “Their bond was immediate. It’s been really cool to see.”

When Velazquez had surgery, other classmates didn’t hesitate to send them their notes so that she could try to keep up. They even have a class group message.

“We really help each other,” Velazquez said. “We really have become good friends. When one is not here, we’ll send photos of our papers to the other. We make a really good team.”

And they each think the world of Sampson.

“She is wonderful!” exclaimed Velazquez. “She’s a wonderful teacher. She has patience and if we need help, she’ll repeat it so that we can understand her.”

Sampson, meanwhile, is just happy to help.

“I like to help people,” she said. “I wasn’t really the best retired person, so I really am happy to be here. It’s two days a week for two hours. It’s fun for me.”

Johnson is hopeful that the program will be able to expand next year through grant funding. In the meantime, its current participants are simply grateful for the chance to become better acquainted with their community.

“This has been a blessing for me,” Velazquez said. “I’m here and I’m happy to be here.”


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