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Organization Spotlight: International Language Institute

1 week 5 days 2 hours 13 min ago

For this month's spotlight, I reached out to Hallie Wallack (bio below) to share with us about classes offered at the International Language Institute (ILI). 

Can you describe your history and how your organization came to be?
ILI, MD began as English House in 1995 as in independent school of English as a Second Language in Gaithersburg, MD.  When the owner had to relocate to the west coast, the school was purchased by the owners of the International Language Institute in Washington, DC.  Our program has two main goals:  we prepare students for the transition to higher education institutions, and we also help the local immigrant population improve their language skills to better integrate into their communities.

We offer excellent quality of instruction from dedicated, professional teachers.  We also provide a safe, comfortable place for students who are living far from home.  They can come here knowing that the staff will care about their progress in and out of the classroom, and many people stay in touch after they move on.

Demographics of Learners:
Our students come from all over the world:  South America, Europe, Asia and Africa.  The largest demographic is Spanish speakers, but we also have speakers of Portuguese, French, Japanese, Thai, Chinese, Burmese, German, Russian, Indonesian and Arabic.  There are about three times as many women as men.  Occupations also run the gamut:  engineers, housewives/moms, teachers, medical professionals, business owners, researchers, restaurant workers, carpenters, painters, landscapers and Uber drivers.

Recent Success Stories:
A Saudi student got his law degree, a Chinese student who was so insecure she couldn’t speak English out loud has finally begun speaking and participating in class, a Colombian student got her PhD, a Turkish student returned home and got a job working for an airline, a Brazilian student returned home and got a job working in luxury hotel, a Saudi student who transferred to flight school and now works as a pilot, and a Dominican student here on a green card who is learning helicopter repair in the army.

Hallie Wallack got her Master’s in TESOL from SUNY at Stony Brook.  She taught in Switzerland, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and England in addition to the US.  She came to ILI, MD in 2001 as an ESL teacher, and then became the Director in 2006.

Interview by Halima Ahmed

Staying on top of a new trend - Proliteracy takeaways

3 weeks 4 days 3 hours 13 min ago

I enjoy professional conferences as they offer an opportunity to spend a couple of days catching up on the latest trends in support of professional development. This year I attended the ProLiteracy Conference as part of the MCAEL team presenting the formal unveiling of the “Program Administrator Tool Kit.” Our session was one example of the wide variety of presentations available.  Other topics ranged from issues regarding reduction of poverty, to opportunities to discuss fundraising issues, understanding the characteristics of learners and finding new ways to reach students.  The entire program was designed to appeal to a diverse group of participants interested in the same goal:  to change the lives of adults through the power of literacy. 

Like any good conference, the pre-conference sessions, presentations and special events offered topics of interest for the large number of participants who were attending from across the country.  Every title appealed to professionals in different levels of experience, administration, and goals for their learners.  

Flipping through the program book, the most discussed topic during this year’s conference focused on digital Literacy. This was of special interest to me and the adult learners in the ESOL and Adult Literacy Program for Catholic Charities as we have introduced the use of Chromebooks, phone apps, and distance learning concepts into our classrooms. The fact that digital literacy was so prevalent, solidified the notion that now, more than before, our learners need to be digitally competent.  The conference itself was heavily digitally infused. Every session room was equipped with computer access, speakers, microphones, and a projector.  All conference participants could download the conference app. The conference evaluations could be submitted on-line.  The “cloud” was not just a beautiful formation in the ski, but a tool that we needed to access. The fact that the ProLit conference was heavily digital, emphasizes the current trends of living in a digitally saturated era.  The present and future of adult learner education is clear: they must become digitally literate, and we can help them get there. 

There were several choices of presentations focusing on utilizing technology to work with learners.  For example, I attended a session on “Using Online Learning to Prepare Adults for the Workplace”. The presenters shared the importance of employees to have the skills to enter a changing workplace.  ProLit created an easy to use (and free) set of educational resources to help learners navigate topics regarding employment. The on-line resource covers four basic topics: setting career goals, tailoring a resume, acing the interview and communicating at work.  Each topic comes with easy to use navigation instructions, designed for learners with basic literacy skills, with colorful icons and both audio and written instructions.  Each learner may create an account ™and work towards completing the series.  There is also an instructor module to provide support to the learners.  The resource is available after creating a free account at www.proliteracyednet.org/workforce

Another session focused on helping Spanish-speaking learners to learn to read, write and become digitally literate.  The program “Leamos”™ is also a self-paced, lesson by lesson, comprehensive course for learners who never attended school or only attended up to the 2nd grade level.  This course requires a bit more administrative involvement and there are basic needs to run the program: access to WiFi, computers or laptops, headphones, and a workbook.  The administrator for “Leamos” must create an account to manage all learners’ progress. It’s a good resource to introduce learners to this new era of learning.  The information for the program is available at www.proliteracy.org/Leamos.

These are just two of the many examples of programs designed to incorporate digital literacy to the adult learners.  It is clear that our learners must become comfortable in a digital world.  From creating an account to visit a doctor’s office, to receiving information about children in school, to applying for a job, all of these require a level of comfort with the use and navigation of technology. The need is great, and we have a responsibility to assist our participants to get there. Easier said than done as each session also highlighted the barriers to utilizing technology.  We heard from different colleagues across the country about issues on the lack of internet connectivity, the fact that not all learners have access to computers, and the cost of internet access. And we also heard about solutions: utilization of library resources, reaching out to companies that provide support to low income families to get access to reduced cost or even free internet connection, or programs that assist individuals and families to get computers in their homes. Thinking and working with colleagues about the solutions to the problems reminded me of the importance of attending a professional conference: I got to connect with others who have similar goals and can share their experiences so I can learn something new and bring it back to my community. 

I look forward to implementing some of what I learned.  Especially around employment and language learning.  

Laura Irwin
ESOL Supervisor
Catholic Charities
 

Provider Spotlight: Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, Inc. (CCACC)

4 weeks 3 hours 13 min 13 sec ago


We recently caught up with the CCACC to learn more about their organization. They will soon be celebrating 37 years of service to their community. Here is what Felicia Tchen, Administrative Specialist & Education Division Assistant shared with us:

Established in 1982 as an organization of local community activities, the Chinese Culture and Community Service Center, Inc. (CCACC) has evolved into a major information and services provider of community services for Chinese Americans in the Metropolitan Washington DC area. Its mission is to enrich families through educational, cultural, health, and social service programs, and to promote mutual understanding, awareness, and appreciation of Chinese and American cultures and heritages. CCACC was founded and run by volunteers, and remains an organization largely composed of volunteers today.

The CCACC Adult ESOL program was established in 1988 as a vital tool for integrating non-English speaking residents into the community, especially Chinese immigrants looking to better adapt to their new life in the U.S. The program is especially important to our organization, as nearly all of the staff and volunteers are 1st generation U.S. citizens themselves. We conduct citizenship application workshops in collaboration with the US Citizenship Immigration Service and provide citizenship preparation classes to prepare applicants for the interview process, in addition to conducting career training seminars and workshops to help immigrants seeking to apply for employment. Over the years, the program has grown from one single class to over 20 classes a year today.

Almost 100% of the learners enrolled in our ESOL program are Chinese. We have both males and females (with more females than males) and their ages range from 22 to 75. All of the students come from China, with a handful of them being new immigrants hoping to settle down in the country and get a job.

CCACC employs a vast array of programs to achieve its mission. Aside from the Adult ESOL program, we also run an After-School Enrichment program 5-days a week for elementary school children and operate CLAPS Chinese School on weekends for people of all ages seeking to learn Chinese. The Pan Asian Volunteer Health Clinic (PAVHC) helps low income residents receive medical and mental health care, regardless of insurance status, and free of language barriers. We also have an Adult Day Health Care Center for seniors, providing them transportation to the doctors, as well as the service of on-site nurses 7-days a week. That way, they can come socialize and participate in various activities throughout the week without worry. Our Evergreen Club provides opportunities for seniors to be active within the community, combating the sense of isolation that many of them face. Moreover, we have a Home Care program for those in need of assistance cooking, cleaning, and doing chores around the house. CCACC is also home to a variety of clubs and activities, with everything from arts and crafts, music, dance, martial arts, photography, sports...the list goes on.  Finally, our CCACC Art Gallery hosts the artwork of both local and international, Asian and Western artists throughout the year. There's something for everyone at CCACC - come pay us a visit and we'll show you around!

ZhengYun was in our citizenship preparation class. She was a very hardworking student but was a little shy and nervous about taking the test. However, she passed the test just a few months ago! She came back to share her experiences with the current citizenship class and answered many of their questions. She encourages all students taking the citizenship test not to be afraid to ask questions during the test, and to just do their best.

We are planning on organizing a potluck dinner around Christmas time with our ESOL students. Our students are all on different schedules, making it hard to get everyone together, but we would like to celebrate with our students outside of the classroom and thank them for all their hard work in trying to learn English to get more involved with the community.

Every year, we are always looking for native English-speakers to help with interviews during the preparation period prior to the citizenship exam. We greatly welcome any and all individuals interested in helping!

The CCACC is a great example of the spectrum of providers in our coalition. We partner with organizations that community members trust, that are culturally competent and connected to learner populations.

Organization Spotlight: Bethesda Chevy Chase (BCC) English Conversation Club

1 month 1 week 5 days 3 hours ago
Bethesda Chevy Chase (BCC) English Conversation Club

For this month's spotlight, I reached out to Patricia and Noreen (bio below) to share with us about their English Conversation Club.

Can you describe your ESOL program?

This is the BCC English Conversation Club’s 10th year of drop-in meetings for people who would like to practice conversational English to increase their confidence and ease of communication. Participants meet in a conference room at the BCC Regional Services Center in Bethesda on Wednesday mornings for 1.5 hours of informative and scintillating conversation. We provide a friendly, hospitable atmosphere for participants to connect with each other and to learn about their American community. 

What are the demographics of learners, country of origin, occupation?

30-35 countries are represented annually – not all at one time – during the course of the year.  On average 10-15 people attend each meeting.  Many attendees have advanced academic degrees and are professionals in their home country.  They are dynamic, inquisitive and interested in sharing information about their own country and experiences in other international places.  

For readers who may not be familiar with your conversation club, what are some things you would like them to know about your program?

We begin the meetings with each participant talking with the whole group about an experience from the past week.  Then, in smaller groups, participants speak, listen and interact.  A timely topic is discussed with a prepared written hand-out with questions.  
An example:  We discussed gun control and gun rights terminology, providing definition and clarification of commonly heard terms. 

Can you share a recent success story?

Our success stories are the participants who have “graduated”: the Italian physical education instructor who was able to resume his career here – in English; the Russian accountant who began a new career as a medical records technician; the Tajik beautician who is pursuing a license as a US esthetician.  
But especially, the Japanese woman who has returned to her country with the understanding that the US values diversity.  At her last meeting with the group, she shared with participants her notebook of our topics with notations, and a map marked with participants’ countries to which she had been exposed.

Patricia has volunteered in different levels of Montgomery County ESOL programs. She attended a class in Montgomery College’s TESOL Certification program, supported by a MCAEL stipend.

Noreen has lived in many countries and can share experiences of different languages and cultures. 

Organization Spotlight: Gaithersburg Beloved Community Initiative

2 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago

For this month's spotlight, I reached out to Georgia Portocarrero and Winanne Kreger (bio below) to share with us about the Gaithersburg Beloved Community Initiative's (GBCI) English Conversation Group. 

Can you describe your ESOL program and how your organization came to be?

The GBCI English Conversation Group was started in 2012 by a group of Asbury Methodist Village (a retirement community in Gaithersburg) residents and two members of the Gaithersburg community, under the aegis of the Gaithersburg Beloved Community Initiative. This is one of a number of programs GBCI has developed to foster collaboration and communication between Asbury residents and members of the surrounding community.
Volunteers from AMV and neighboring areas meet weekly for an hour with second language learners who come from Gaithersburg and Germantown to improve their English conversation skills.  When the group started there were five participants, who spoke very little English. As the group grew, it was split into two levels, one for beginners and the other for intermediate students. 

What are the demographics of learners?

The majority of our participants are women from Central and South America, although we have had learners from Asian countries and for several years the husband of one of our participants was part of the group.  Many of the women have babies and pre-school children who play in a nearby space while their mothers practice English.

For readers who may not be familiar with GBCI and your ESOL program, what are some things you would like them to know about your program?

Currently, the GBCI English Conversation Group meets for eleven sessions in the Fall (September-December) and eleven sessions in the Spring (March-June).  Participants are given a certificate if they attend at least eight of the eleven sessions.  
During each semester, we discuss topics that are generated by the participants and the volunteers.  We also invite speakers from the community to provide information about issues and resources of interest to the group. We have had speakers talk about immigration, gangs, nutrition and food banks, women’s health issues and public library programs, among other topics.
In addition to providing an opportunity for learning English and gaining information about community resources, this class functions as a place for participants to network and support one another.

Can you share a recent success story?

Milagro Rivera Flores, one of the founders of and first participants in the group, was very shy and spoke little English when she partnered with the AMV volunteers to organize the group and become the liaison between GBCI and the Gaithersburg community. Over time her English improved, she developed confidence in her ability to network in the community and started organizing workshops and events for her fellow immigrants. She also started Mujer Fuerza y Coraje (Powerful and Courageous Women), a group dedicated to mutual support and empowerment of women. In 2017 she received the MCPS Board of Education Distinguished Service in Public Education Award. In addition, she has recently received an award as one of the 100 top female leaders in the DC Metropolitan Hispanic community.  

Georgia Portocarrero taught at bilingual schools in Mexico and worked as an ESOL teacher for MCPS.  After retiring, she taught Workplace English for MCPS.  She has been co-leader of the GBCI English Conversation Group since 2015.   

Winanne Kreger worked as an internal organization development consultant and mediator for an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where she worked with individuals and work teams across the United States and in countries around the world until her retirement in 2010.
Winanne has enjoyed working with this group since 2013. This is her first experience working with English as a Second Language learners. 

Organization Spotlight: Cedarbrook Community Church

3 months 2 days 3 hours 13 min ago

For this month's spotlight, we spoke with Barbara Goodno. Ms. Goodno is the Program Manager for Cedarbrook Community Church's ESOL Program. She’s been part of the program since the beginning, serving first as assistant director to Millie Walters, whose vision in 2004 was to bring English classes to adult internationals in upper Montgomery County.  Since that first year, Barb has also served as an intermediate and advanced instructor.  In her professional life she is a senior program manager for the government, currently serving as the associate director for online learning.  She is an avid volunteer who encourages others to join this marvelous team -- "you get so much more than you give!"

Can you tell us a little bit about your ESOL program?

Each Wednesday evening, from 7-9 p.m., Cedarbrook Community Church in Clarksburg, Maryland, offers conversational English classes for learners at five levels – from beginners to advanced. Planning for the program began in 2005 when a church member noted that many of the residents in the newly built neighborhoods in Clarksburg were adult internationals. Her work with MCAEL confirmed the need, and on September 2006, the ESOL program began. Since then, estimates are that more than 1,200 learners have participated in the classes.

What are the demographics of your learners?

In May at our last class, we celebrated our students’ achievements.  As part of that celebration, our decorated space included the flags of their home countries – last year there were 45 flags. So, to answer your question -- our learners’ backgrounds are quite diverse!  While many are from countries in Central and South America, we’ve hosted learners from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. During our break time (when the use of the heart language is OK), we hear Spanish, French, Korean, Vietnamese, Farsi, Russian – and others.  As for occupations, that is also quite varied.  In their home countries, many have had professional degrees; here in the U.S., they work in a variety of fields to include health care, childcare, education, management and landscaping.  Several of our learners are business owners.

For readers who may not be familiar with your ESOL program, what are some things you would like them to know about your program/s? 

Our program is filled with highly motivated adult learners – we learn so much from them!  This year, classes will begin on Wednesday, September 18 and will conclude on Wednesday, May 27.  There is no charge for the classes except for a one-time book fee of $24.  We offer a rolling registration; learners are welcome to join the classes at any time.  The first meeting begins with an assessment to help with placement – we work hard at offering a program that balances challenge with mastery of what they already know.  We follow the Montgomery County Public School calendar for vacations and weather delays and cancellation.  

Top five reasons our learners attend ESOL classes based on one of our internal surveys:

  • To speak English
  • Practice pronunciation
  • Listen and understand
  • Write to be understood (with correct grammar)
  • Read and understand more clearly what is written

Can you share a recent success story? 

There are so many!  The one that comes to mind immediately is our learner who started in our program as a beginner several years ago.  Now an intermediate-level student, this past October he took his citizenship test – and passed!  His classmates helped him prepare (by quizzing him – he had to know the answers, which he of course did).  Getting his citizenship was a long-time goal and it was a joy to share this accomplishment with him. 

MCAEL Annual Meeting June 19, 2019

4 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago

Do you know what our County's priorities are?

Here's a cheat list from our network of providers:
•    Workforce Development
•    Community Development
•    Education/Language
•    Expansion Early education
•    Racial Equity
•    Public Safety

MCAEL hosted the Annual Meeting on June 19th where coalition members, providers, staff and board members came to connect and discuss the coalition's strategic direction, to hear from our partners on their successes and challenges and discuss ways in which we can support our collective work vis-à-vis the county priorities. We used the following questions to guide our group conversations:

  • How does the work of the network support county priorities?
  • How can providers/instructors/other partners support the MCAEL Strategic Plan Goals?

Key meeting takeaways:

  • MCAEL programs align and support all County priorities
  • Childcare is crucial to expanding ESOL in the county
  • Workplace based classes are the new frontier for ESOL class delivery
  • Strengthening partnerships with teacher accreditation programs will help us reach our strategic goal of 21,000 learners by 2021
  • English gives adults (and children) the tools to achieve their goals

Areas of opportunity/growth:

  • Teacher Turnover - Is there room to offer more pay to keep and acquire dedicated and committed instructors?
  • We need more funding to expand into Germantown, East County, Parkland
  • Can MCAEL offer workshops and professional development in Silver Spring, other locations?
  • How can we use technology to reach 21,000 learners by 2021?

 

Organization Spotlight: Family Services, Inc. - Thriving Germantown (TG)

5 months 3 weeks 3 days 3 hours ago

For this month’s organizational spotlight, we spoke with Angelo Knox. Mr. Knox is the Program Director for Thriving Germantown since its inception in 2017. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Management and Leadership and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

Can you describe your history and how your organization came to be?

Family Services, Inc. (FSI) is a 111-year-old non-profit organization that is part of the Sheppard Pratt Health System (SPHS). FSI is one of the oldest and most enduring nonprofit social service agencies serving Montgomery County. The mission of the agency is to “promote the resilience, recovery and independence of individuals and families across the life span through integrated mental and physical health, social service, and education programs, thereby strengthening communities.” The agency provides direct service programs in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, community support, early childhood, school-focused services, and domestic violence. Last year, our programs served close to 13,000 individuals through 268,199 service units in Montgomery (MC) and Prince George’s (PGC) Counties. While we have a bi-county footprint, there are programs that either by location or design focus on specific regions, communities and/or schools.

Can you briefly tell us about the work Thriving Germantown (TG) does with Captain James E. Daly Elementary School (DES)?

With a staff of four Family Service Coordinators (FSC), TG provides comprehensive family risk assessments and develop intervention plans within a "pathways" model, offering concrete steps toward problem resolution and resource linkage.  Each FSC provides intensive case coordination services, which includes the following:

  • Home visits
  • Regular follow-up with the child and their family
  • Outreach
  • Advocacy with community resources

What are the demographics of learners? 

A combined 87% of our learners are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. Our learners comprise of 79% female and 21% male. 

For readers who may not be familiar with the TG, what are somethings you would like them to know about your program/s?

Thriving Germantown (TG) Community HUB is a multi-generational, multi-sector care coordination project developed to alleviate the impact of poverty in the Germantown area starting with the Captain James E. Daly Elementary School (DES) Community. TG acts as a central clearinghouse that assess and tracks individual and family risk factors and establishes pathways for achieving measurable outcomes. Each FSC specializes in a specific risk area, which includes: Early Care & Education, Health & Wellness, Behavioral Health, and Household Sustainability (Economic Sustainability and Emergency Assistance).

Can you share a recent success story?

Angelica started with ESOL classes during the fall session and has continued taking classes throughout the entire school year. She has attended more than 80% of classes each session. Throughout the year, she has improved her vocabulary, pronunciation, and listening skills. Angelica has also reported more confidence in her speaking abilities and how she is happy to be able to speak with people in English in public places when she's out in the community. In addition to improving her English skills, Angelica has also become a leader in the classroom and other students often turn to her for additional support and help during class.

Organization Spotlight: Ana A. Brito Foundation, Inc.

6 months 2 weeks 6 days 3 hours ago

The Ana A. Brito Foundation was born out of a sheer desire to serve and educate new immigrants. The foundation offers a plethora of services such as English classes (language program), computer programs, tutoring services, health and wellness among other things. Marta Brito Perez, Ana Brito’s daughter and the president of the foundation said about the language program that it was a “lifelong passion for mom and for Pastora Yolanda Pupo-Ortiz.” For this month’s newsletter, I spoke with Pastora Yolanda who shared with us about her journey to the United States, partnership with Ana Brito as well as how the foundation came into being:

I am a United Methodist pastor who came from Cuba to the United States in the decade of the sixties. Ana Brito, also from Cuba, and I met in 1983 and from that time on we became partners in our common desire to serve the immigrant community in the area. With the help of other church leaders, we began holding worship services in Spanish at the Bethesda United Methodist Church in Bethesda. Among our activities, we included first, Spanish classes for the children, and English classes for the adults. In order to reach out to the larger immigrant population of the county, under Ana’s leadership, the English program was offered in different locations of the county, including Epworth United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg, where the program is located today and where in collaboration with the church we became the Ana A Brito Foundation. 

Today the foundation serves the diverse population who reside in Montgomery County; the majority of the learners who attend classes are from Spanish-speaking countries. In addition, the foundation also serves students from Iran, Thailand, Korea, Liberia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Nigeria among other countries. The teachers and volunteers also represent a diverse group. Majority of the learners are women, many who are mothers with small children. While the parents are in class, the school-age children participate in the Children’s Enrichment Program which includes tutoring, childcare, and educational/creative activities. 

When I asked Pastora Yolanda what she would like for people to know about the Ana Brito foundation, she said: 

The most important message we want to give to our community is that we are here to serve the immigrant community. We are here to welcome and enable them to adjust to the country by learning the culture and especially the language. With an open arm, we are here and ready to receive the gifts they bring through their cultures, traditions, and skills.

When learners are able “to understand something their neighbors said for the first time” or comprehend what “their children have learned” at school then that is a marker of success for the language program, Pastora Yolanda noted. 

Organization Spotlight: Briggs Center for Faith and Action

7 months 2 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago

For this month’s organization spotlight, we spoke with Stacey Fannon. Ms. Fannon is the ESL Program Manager for the center. She holds a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health (2000).
 
The Briggs Center for Faith and Action funds and manages the ever-growing ESL initiative. The center engages people who share a passion for social justice and serving the disadvantaged. Briggs has several programs and services. The ESL Program is the central focus.

Briggs offers free, literacy-access, drop-in ESL classes to over 200 learners from 45 countries each year. Thanks to a host of dedicated volunteer teachers, Briggs offers English classes on Sunday morning, Tuesday evening and Wednesday & Thursday mornings. Citizenship classes are also offered. The purpose is to facilitate English conversation and socialization. The goal is for learners to become more proficient and confident in English. Literacy acquired will empower learners to achieve their goals and strengthen communities and workforces.

Classes aim to assist LEP-learners living/working in/near Bethesda. Briggs participates in a “Know Your Neighbor” campaign which seeks to welcome and help our neighbors in need. Historically the program has reached childcare providers, retirees, homemakers, international students and some men. The primary population served are women eager to develop English skills to improve their lives in America.

The top five countries where the majority of our learners were born in is China, Colombia, Brazil, Japan, and Italy. A small percentage of the students are also from countries like Poland, Tunisia, Argentina, France and Israel among other countries. The occupation of the learners ranges from childcare providers to teachers to homemakers. Based on our FY19 midyear data, we are currently serving 158 learners from 41 countries. 

All of our teachers are volunteers. Most of our instructors are retired educators, lawyers, and public servants who are passionate about immigration and social justice issues. Some hold full-time jobs (e.g. nurse, psychologist) with the flexibility to volunteer. Others are pursuing TESOL as a second career and wish to gain teaching experience at the Briggs ESL Program. 

Recent success stories:
One of Leslie Layne’s Beginning Literacy students, Giselle, started off the year knowing very little English. One of her goals was to get a job. Giselle recently informed Leslie that she got a job at a local restaurant. Giselle brought the menu into the ESL class to practice with her teacher and role-played ordering food. Leslie was so happy and felt proud of her student’s accomplishment. Giselle is grateful for Leslie’s help building her confidence and English skills needed to get the job.

The Briggs Center ESL Program offers citizenship and civics classes. Learners improve their English while gaining knowledge about U.S. history, civics and culture. The classes help prepare learners for the U.S. citizenship test and interview. Stacy Parkinson, MCAEL board member and Briggs volunteer, was elated when two of her students became U.S. citizens.

Challenges: 
Since we offer drop-in classes, attendance varies widely. Instructors don’t know exactly how many students will show up on any given day. However, some students do notify their teacher if they know they’ll be absent. Sharing cell phone numbers, email addresses, and forming WhatsApp groups improves communication and helps instructors plan accordingly.

Our teachers have discovered that reading short stories is more appropriate for drop-in classes. Our advanced class is currently reading Great American Short Stories (Dover Thrift Editions). Reading full-length books in class can be a challenge, especially for students entering midway through the book. As a solution, before the new student begins class, he/she reads the part of the book they missed at home in their native language. Then, the student reads the rest of the book in English with the class. 

An exciting new project:
As an outgrowth of the ESL Program, the Briggs Center is in the process of creating an Immigration Services Clinic under the leadership of Ferew Haile. Last year, the Briggs Center became affiliated with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. The Briggs Center is awaiting approval from the Department of Justice to provide legal immigration services. 

Tips for recruiting and retaining volunteers: 
Volunteers are our greatest natural resource! The Briggs Center ESL Program recruits via word-of-mouth, email lists (neighborhoods, schools, churches), and websites (Briggs Center, MCAEL, Montgomery County Volunteer Center). I try to recruit teachers that live nearby. This makes it more convenient for them, so they don’t have to deal with a long commute or traffic.  I retain volunteers in many ways. If a teacher is unable to make a class, I help the teacher find a substitute (or teach the class myself – which is very fun and rewarding!). If a teacher has a good idea or resource, he/she shares it with me, then I share it with the others. I share what I learn from MCAEL provider meetings and internet research. Before or after class, or during a coffee break, I check in with the teachers to see if they need anything from me or if they can take any more students. When the teachers come to me with a problem, we brainstorm solutions together. I also give them homemade baked goods and cards around the holidays and at the end of the year to show them my appreciation.  

What motivates our teachers to volunteers:
Most of our volunteers are retired. They are looking to doing something meaningful with their time. I think volunteering with immigrants is their way of making the United States a welcoming place. I think they are motivated to teach because it makes them feel good and it makes the students feel good. The students teach the teachers just as much as the teachers teach the students! It’s a win-win situation!

For more information about the Briggs Center for Faith and Action, please visit their website

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