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Meet Sylv - People of MCAEL

4 months 2 weeks 7 hours 7 min ago

The People at the Heart of MOCO’s English Language Learning - Meet Sylvia Granados-Maready 

It’s MCAEL’s 15 year anniversary, and we’re celebrating with a “People of MCAEL” series featuring first person insights and photos from some of the wonderful people involved in English language learning in Montgomery County, MD. You’ll find stories here and on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and Twitter; please share and use our hashtag #MCAEL15. We know this coalition thrives because of committed people like you; thank you!

Today we’re introducing our third profile: Sylvia Granados-Maready!

Meet Sylv"My parents emigrated here from El Salvador. My dad learned English at work; my mom was one of the first students in a new program at Community Ministries of Rockville (Now Community Reach of Montgomery County). She could take English classes and enroll me in their early childcare program. My mom loves learning and she instilled that in me—missing school was a punishment for me as a kid. My son feels the same! Today my mother is the site coordinator in Community Reach’s Language Outreach Program, my sister is a child tutor, and I teach adult English conversation classes. 

I’m also a MCPS high school teacher—Honors English 12 and theater. I know if I want my students to have the fervor to learn, I need to offer them community at school. My favorite production we’ve done was In the Heights. My students felt seen and heard and represented with that show, with the music, and so did I. We recently put on Macbeth, the first Shakespeare production in 20 years at our school and the first in-person in a while. I was so proud of the students. I’m going to cry when my seniors graduate. 

I love what I do, and it’s because of my immigrant parents—their desire to learn English and keep learning, their work ethic. It’s also the teachers who had a calling, the people who created programs like MCEAL and Community Reach. The director and assistant director there have known me my whole life; they’re like family. All of this, it's what’s beautiful about Montgomery County. I tell my English language students, and would tell everyone in the county, we are all human, no one is better than anyone else. We should encourage people to try new things, make mistakes and help them grow—we’re in this life together.”

Sylvia’s story is part of MCAEL’S 15th Anniversary celebration; every month we’ll highlight some of the wonderful people at the heart of our coalition. Learn more about MCAEL and its mission here: https://mcael.org. #MCAEL15

As told to Kristin O’Keefe

MCAEL Advisory Group Spotlight: Roza Beyene

4 months 2 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago


Tell us a little about yourself and what was your entry point into Adult ESOL.

My name is Roza Beyene. I was born and raised in Tigray, Ethiopia. Currently, I am working as an Adult Education and Workforce Programs Manager at the Ethiopian Community Center. Before I moved to the US, I was an instructor of English Courses at a University level. I enjoyed my journey as an instructor then and also when I taught ESOL to Adult learners in the US. Right now, I got the opportunity to continue with my passion in the field by planning and implementing the program to help Adult ESOL learners.

Where are you now teaching (or working as an ESOL provider) (at what levels and for which organizations)?
As an Adult Education and Workforce Manager at the Ethiopian Community Center, I oversea the ESOL classes and the Workforce development programs. I do the planning, recruitment, curriculum evaluating and reporting of the programs. I work closely with the ESOL instructors, site coordinators and students to make the programs successful. 

What unexpected successes or previously unknow capabilities have you and the learners you serve experienced during the pandemic?
When the pandemic happened, I thought that was the end to most of our programs as it required in person interactions. My coworkers and I did some research on a virtual platform and decided to use Zoom for our ESOL classes even though we were not sure if it was going to work out. Surprisingly, the students and the teachers adopted the virtual platform quickly and the number of students enrolled increased. When I conducted a survey for the students’ preference, I found out more than 95% of them still prefers virtual classes.

What role do you play in MAG?
I served on the Conference Planning Committee, supported the planning, development, and delivery of MCAEL’s March 2022 hybrid conference. Currently, I am serving as the Learner Leadership Advisory Group Committee, being a voice to adult ESOL learners in the planning and implementation of MCAEL network activities.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing the impact of the Ethiopian Community Center in improving the lives of African Immigrants in the DMV area. When I see prior students getting a better paying career or continuing their education, it makes me to be creative to better serve my community. 

What brings you joy outside of your professional life?
Spending time with my family brings joy to me. 
 

Meet Aryani - People of MCAEL

4 months 3 weeks 2 days 7 hours ago

The People at the Heart of MOCO’s English Language Learning - Meet Aryani Ong

It’s MCAEL’s 15 year anniversary, and we’re celebrating with a “People of MCAEL” series featuring first person insights and photos from some of the wonderful people involved in English language learning in Montgomery County, MD. You’ll find stories here and on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter; please share and use our hashtag #MCAEL15. We know this coalition thrives because of committed people like you; thank you!

Today we’re introducing our second profile: Aryani Ong!


“My husband and I moved here in 1995 from the Bay Area. It was my turn to go to law school and I wanted to be near the emblems of democracy, near government and politics. I became a civil rights attorney and worked in national advocacy spaces, so I understood ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) from a policy perspective.

I also very early on in my own life had a connection to English language learning. My parents had emigrated from Indonesia, and I was going to school in southern California. Between my mother’s serviceable English—she mixed some Indonesian words in with English—and my truncated answers to a vague essay question, I was put in an ESOL class. Even at the age of 6, I felt that it was remedial, and I know many second-generation immigrants who have had a similar experience. It’s something for teachers to keep in mind as they evaluate and look at placements, though I’m sure it’s much different now.

Montgomery County is a special place; it’s home to people who are committed to diversity and inclusion, who work hard to make this a welcoming place for all residents, regardless of immigration status. This county forges public-private partnerships to improve the lives of everyone. As a board member in the early days of MCAEL, I was impressed with the mission and vision to support people to be their full selves, to help them reach their dreams.

I find community in civic life, with vibrant people from all walks of life, people from around the world. One of my volunteer roles is with a group called CUAH (Communities United Against Hate). I’m a founding member and I’ve also served as a grants review panelist for a CUAH youth program called Youth Creating Change, where we hear students pitch diversity and inclusion projects for grant funding. I was at one of these panels right after the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburg. Hearing those students and their vision for a brighter future brought me from the depths of despair to hope.

My daughter went to a Quaker school and I like how they talk about people holding the light inside them. When my husband and I married, we both lit a unity candle. If you transpose that into community, it’s about everyone bringing their inner lights into a communal large candle. It’s the coming together that salves our wounds whenever acts of hate or bigotry threaten to tear our community.”

Learn more about MCAEL here and subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest MCAEL news and stories like Aryani's. 

The People at the Heart of MoCo’s English Language Learning

5 months 1 week 1 day 7 hours ago

It’s MCAEL’s 15 year anniversary, and we’re celebrating with a “People of MCAEL” series featuring first person insights and photos from some of the wonderful people involved in English language learning in Montgomery County, MD. You’ll find stories here and on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter; please share and use our hashtag #MCAEL15. We know this coalition thrives because of committed people like you; thank you! 

We’re excited to share our first profile today: meet CASA’s Edwin. 

“I’ve lived in the DC region my whole life, except for college. I knew I wanted to come home after graduation; this is where my family is.

I am the first person in my family to complete a Bachelor’s degree. I double majored in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Spanish. It was a journey to go to university and finish that degree, and I was blessed with a supportive family. I give a lot of thanks to them and my professors for my success. 

Teaching at CASA in Montgomery County was one of my first jobs after college. I see the people I work with as my family, because they are immigrants too. I know the struggles, what it’s like to not know another language. I was enrolled in ESOL classes K-8th grade; that was a big reason I wanted to become an ESOL teacher. 
Moving our classes from in-person to the online world was hard at first, but I still feel very connected to my students. I’d tell anyone thinking of classes, in time you’ll learn how to maneuver Zoom; don’t be afraid to try something different. Also, it’s ok to make mistakes. I always made mistakes; that’s the way we learn. 


I encourage the students to practice their English with me. In addition to native Spanish speakers, CASA also serves people from French African speaking countries, Afghanistan, Bangladesh… we recently had a student from Thailand finish the program. 

I currently serve as a coordinator with CASA’s ESOL program. I take care of the students, I do registration, data collection, help students with IT, and let them know about additional support at CASA and where they can go for other help. Here at CASA we also offer citizenship classes, computer classes, vocational classes. We also make recommendations to other county programs with higher levels once they finish our classes. 

I love that MCAEL offers built-in community. The members share our classes, registration info, and what services are offered in addition to English-language. There are so many resources in this county; it helps to have someone showing you the way and supporting you.”

Learn more about MCAEL and our partner organizations here
 

Two New Efforts to Uplift and Celebrate Our Community

5 months 2 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago

First, a big thank you to all who made 15 years at MCAEL possible! We are incredibly grateful to celebrate this major milestone with partners like you–and we’d like your help in marking the occasion.

In addition to exciting events like our recently held professional development conference and the upcoming Spelling Bee (buy your tickets and/or sponsor today), we’re celebrating 15 years of MCAEL with two special initiatives: the People, Power, Potential Award and a new social media series featuring the “People of MCAEL.”

This award, new this year, will recognize an amazing person or organization that has been instrumental in MCAEL’s 15 year history.  Please take a few minutes to nominate an ESOL rockstar - nominations will be closing soon, and the winner will be recognized at the BEE on May 4.  There are so many wonderful people and organizations that make this coalition a model in the county and state; you can nominate your favorite here.  We look forward to celebrating the winner next month!

Modeled on the popular “Humans of New York” posts, our “People of MCAEL” social media series will feature first person insights and photos from some of the many wonderful individuals who are involved in MCAEL. Beginning in mid-April, you’ll see a regular post; perspectives will include program staff and instructors, current and former students, founding board members and more. We can’t wait to share their stories and insights about English Language learning here in Montgomery County, MD. If you don’t already, please follow MCAEL’s social media accounts here: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter and use our hashtag #MCAEL15. And remember: your comments and shares will get these wonderful stories out to an even broader audience.

We’re all absorbing lots of hard news these day–we hope these two efforts uplift our community and celebrate the hard work of our MCAEL’s incredible partners–and the people, power and potential at the heart of our coalition.

Kathy Stevens
Executive Director
MCAEL

MCAEL Advisory Group Spotlight: Tho Tran

5 months 3 weeks 7 hours 7 min ago

Tell us a little about yourself and what was your entry point into Adult ESOL. 
My name is Tho Tran, I am the founder of the Vietnamese American Services, a nonprofit to help Vietnamese community in Maryland. When VAS was established in 2015, we received a first grant from MCAEL to teach English for Vietnamese. Since that time, VAS always has Adult ESOL programs for the community. 

Where are you now teaching (or working as an ESOL provider) (at what levels and for which organizations)?
I am working as the Executive Director of VAS. 

What unexpected successes or previously unknown capabilities have you and the learners you serve experienced during the pandemic
People adapted quickly with online learning. During the quarantined time, we had more students because people were staying at home, and we addressed the needs on time. 

What role do you play in MAG?
I am a member of MAG’s Learner Leadership Strategic Planning Committee.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
Working with good people, help people change their quality of life and achieve their dreams.

What brings you joy outside of your professional life?
I am learning Latin dances.

 

MCAEL Advisory Group Spotlight: Pam Wilbur

6 months 2 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago

Tell us a little about yourself and what was your entry point into Adult ESOL.
My name is Pam Wilbur. I grew up in Massachusetts and have lived in Maryland for the last 30 years. I spent 15 years working on trade issues for the federal government and left the workforce for several years to raise my son. When he reached school age, I started to volunteer in our church’s ESOL program. Over a short period of time the program grew rapidly, and this led to a new job as the program’s director. 

Where are you now teaching (or working as an ESOL provider) (at what levels and for which organizations)?
I am the program director for Covenant Life Church’s ESOL program. We hold English classes at South Lake Elementary School in Gaithersburg, and teach classes to SLES parents and other community members that live close to the school. Covenant Life has been teaching English classes at SLES for the last 9 years, and our volunteers have taught over 1300 students in that time. I am not an ESOL teacher, but rather serve as the manager and “details” person for our program.  

What unexpected successes or previously unknown capabilities have you and the learners you serve experienced during the pandemic?
Our teachers had no experience – zero, zip, nada! - with online teaching prior to the Covid lockdowns. Some of our volunteer teachers were very, very hesitant to continue teaching their classes using Zoom. But I was amazed and encouraged by the ones who said “yes” to tackling Zoom and taking on this big new challenge. And they were successful! - teaching 127 students online in the FY21 school year. We count this as a big success for the program and for our students. Also, the pandemic, and the move to online teaching, allowed us to teach and continue relationships with students who had moved out of the area. Students and teachers got a lot of joy from this, and were very grateful for this unexpected benefit in a difficult time.  

What role do you play in MAG?
As a member of the MAG, I serve on the Conference Planning Committee, helping to plan the upcoming MCAEL conference, and on the Learner Leadership Advisory Group Committee.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
As a church-based ESOL program, we have the opportunity to show “faith-in-action” by welcoming and serving the “stranger” in our midst (which is how some bible translations refer to immigrants). It is very rewarding to have the opportunity to express my faith through service and to work alongside our group of volunteer teachers and assistants.  It has also been very rewarding to watch our students struggle, learn, and then succeed. We have had the opportunity to see students put their English skills to good use, getting better jobs because of improved English, working out problems with landlords and employers, and becoming U.S. citizens.  

What brings you joy outside of your professional life?
I have a husband and 19-year-old son and they bring me a lot of joy. We enjoy traveling together. We are also committed Star Wars and Marvel nerds. I am also a photography hobbyist and love getting the perfect shot. Finally, I took up making paper flowers during our COVID lockdowns, which I enjoy very much and find both challenging and relaxing.  

MCAEL Advisory Group Spotlight: Cindy Newland

7 months 2 weeks 6 hours 7 min ago

Tell us a little about yourself and what was your entry point into Adult ESOL.
I am originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, but didn’t grow up there.  As a young child, I moved around the world with my family as diplomats. I have lived in Thailand, Venezuela, Mexico, Bolivia, and the United States.  I learned to speak Spanish while living in various Spanish-speaking countries.  After receiving my BBA in Business Management from Howard University I found my love of teaching English when I volunteered teaching ESOL to adults after work.  A few years later, after my first daughter was born, I decided to leave my job as a Senior Sales Manager at a large drug science organization and pursued teaching regularly. I taught every level from literacy to advanced. After teaching ESOL for close to 14 years, I became the program coordinator at Sheppard Pratt’s Linkages to Learning English Literacy Program.

Where are you now teaching (or working as an ESOL provider) (at what levels and for which organizations)?
I stopped teaching ESOL a couple of years ago when I started working as a full-time program coordinator. However, through my connections from teaching ESOL, I was offered the opportunity to help immigrant students gain their citizenship. In 2018, I began teaching citizenship classes for Montgomery County and have helped countless number of students become U.S. citizens.

What unexpected successes or previously unknown capabilities have you and the learners you serve experienced during the pandemic?
When the pandemic happened, we were forced to transition in person classes to virtual only.  I for one, wasn’t familiar with online platforms, but quickly learned how to use them. It was difficult for our teachers as well as learners to navigating classes online. I thought this was the end of our program. But to my surprise the opposite happened. Online registration and surveys were easier for our students to use. Our registration numbers almost doubled, our students and teachers love the convenience of online classes, and our approval ratings increased. Teaching virtually, at least in some part, is the future and we will continue to do so.

What role do you play in MAG [committees, roles]?
I am new to MAG. I am still learning my role, but I hope to work with others on my committee to find better ways to keep students engaged and motivated to attend class, educate them online, and help them achieve their personal goals.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing how our ESOL classes touch and change the lives of our students. Hearing success stories from students how learning English has given them their confidence and independence back. They found financial independence with better paying jobs; social independence because they can write notes to teachers, ride the Metro, or connecting more with their community; and personal independence because they can buy groceries or speak with doctors without their children as interpreters. Learning English has improved lives and brought families closer together. Their successes are the reason I love my job.

What brings you joy outside of your professional life?
I enjoy reading mystery novels or watching a good Who Done It show on TV. I love dancing especially to salsa music.  I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes and I love traveling with my husband and two beautiful daughters.
 

On Snowboarding and Learning: Turning Stuck-asaurus Moments into Weewhoo Times

7 months 2 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago


I’ve recently become obsessed with a viral video of a 4-year old snowboarder who happens to hit the slopes dressed as a dinosaur. You may have seen the charming “powder-saurus” on the Today Show or Good Morning America. As I watched it for the umpteenth time on Instagram, I wondered what kept drawing me back to this one?  Besides her cuteness, I find the snowboarding dinosaur’s words uncensored and universal; they offer wisdom for all of us, both on and off the slopes.

I work in the world of adult learning – specifically running an organization that supports adult English language learners in Montgomery County, MD.  The words of our 4-year-old shredder resonated with me as they speak to the learning process for all of us -whether we are the designated learner or teacher.   A few lessons I took from her narrative:

1. Jump in 
Be ready to jump right in.  Maybe you need to say “let’s go” to give yourself a figurative push, but this is a moment – probably before every big hill, every class you take or teach, to say I am ready.

2. Encourage yourself and others 
Our own narrative can serve to support or inhibit us.  But, also learning can be a great collective effort. Our positive energy can support others just as much as we can support us.  At one point, young Aubrin says “Have fun Dad” – probably words he has said to her many times. You see the support for learning – and more importantly the fun in learning that is a key lesson to carry through the learning challenges. 

3. Have confidence, knowing that you will make mistakes
This is probably my favorite part.  Our 4-year old shredder is skiing on a narrow path through the trees; it’s probably a bit tricky to stay upright and on the path. She sing-songs through the path:

I won’t fall,
Maybe I will, 
That’s ok
Cause we all fall

Whether learning a new language, computer app, or skiing skill, it is important to balance two key perspectives. First, keep your confidence up – you can do this.  You can succeed. But you will probably fall or fail along the way, and that is okay; everyone does.  You will just need to pick yourself up and continue – laughing while you do it certainly helps!

4.  Find the moments where you are really succeeding and enjoy the ride.
Riding down the big hill, gaining speed, she feels the joy of what she has accomplished.  Have you taught a new lesson?  Seen a learner gain confidence in making a doctor’s appointment over the phone?  Learned a new idiomatic phrase? Scream it out - Weewhoo, weewoo!  May we all have some weehoo and weewoo moments in our day.

5. Sometimes you’ll get stuck.
You will get stuck, and you will do all the things you have been taught to right yourself or get back on track.  Those tools might not work. Acknowledge that you are stuck and ask for help.  Here’s to all the learners out there, no matter if you are a 4-year-old snowboard learner, an adult English language learner, or one of the many of us who had to learn new virtual video tools these last two years. 

We all have our stuck-asaurus moments—the key is acknowledging them and asking for help. Thank you to all the people of MCAEL who are there to turn the stuck-asaurus moments into weewhoo times.

Kathy Stevens
Executive Director
MCAEL

MCAEL Advisory Group Spotlight: Paul Bermingham

8 months 3 weeks 1 day 6 hours ago


Tell us a little about yourself and what was your entry point into Adult ESOL

I was born in Ireland, where I qualified as a high-school teacher in 1978. A few years later, I became a member of a team appointed to train accountants in Lesotho, a small country in southern Africa that had recently become independent. For the next two years, I would teach accounting and other subjects in a country where, despite being known internationally as anglophone, English is very much a second-language.

My time in Lesotho was the start of what turned out to be a thirty-year career in development. Much of this was with the World Bank, which is how I came to Washington in 1994. While not working directly on education during these years, I always retained an involvement, and served as a board member of the Rabat American School in Morocco and the Overseas School of Colombo in Sri Lanka when posted to each country. 

Soon after I retired, I had the opportunity to teach ESOL as a volunteer at the Briggs Center for Faith and Action in Bethesda. Now in my fifth year, I enjoy it thoroughly.

Where are you now teaching (at what levels and for which organizations)?
I presently teach a Beginner – High class of ten students. We have four hours of on-line classes each week. I earlier taught at Intermediate – High level for two years. I am also part of a team at Briggs that provides individual support to recent arrivals and refugees, and I am presently teaching two members of an Afghan family that arrived following the US withdrawal in August of 2021. 

What unexpected successes or previously unknown capabilities have you and the learners you serve experienced during the pandemic?

I miss in-person teaching. On the other hand, on-line teaching has forced me to make more, and smarter, use of IT. I’ve been surprised by the wealth of resources available not just to help me to teach, but, more importantly, to help learners to learn. All members of my Beginner class are comfortable with Zoom, our WhatsApp Group, and e-mail. I see great potential for us to make better use of IT to improve the learning experience. 

What role do you play in MAG?
I am presently the chair of the MAG, and serve on the Spring Conference and Learner Leadership committees.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I spent half of my professional life working in diverse countries around the world. For much of this time, I was the “new arrival” who spoke the “other language”.  I am now very happy to be able to teach English to new arrivals to the US, and to help them integrate into the community in which I have made my home. 

I still have very warm memories of the first MCAEL course I attended in 2017, “More Learning, Less Teaching”. Putting the learner at the center of what we do is different from the more teacher-centric training I received all those years ago. Not only is it the right thing to do to put the learner first, but I am finding that I, as the instructor, am learning more too. Long may we all continue to keep learning!

What brings you joy outside of your professional life?
I like to read, to cook, and to travel.
 

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