Almost 60 Spanish speakers, largest number ever, enrolled in ESL classes at CNCC
- Students must be 17 or older.
- Students must be willing to undergo regular testing.
Students were in place, workbooks were open, and notebooks and highlighters were at the ready as English as a Second Language lessons began at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 27, at Colorado Northwestern Community College.
“We live here; we need to speak English. If we have good communication, we can have better jobs and more opportunities,” said advanced ESL student Jesus Duarte.
A total of 58 students are enrolled in basic, intermediate, or advanced ESL classes — “the largest enrollment in ESL in the history of the college,” said Director of Adult Basic Education Annette Burrow. “The president requested that an ESL class get going. I told him we could and then had sleepless nights while figuring it out.”
Not a Spanish speaker herself, Burrow called upon other colleges to learn what they used and what had worked.
“ESL class was not successful, because it was computer-based,” Burrow said. “I asked people, ‘What do you want from a class at the college?’ The main feedback was that it should be everyday English and not computer-based.”
She ultimately chose the National Geographic Standout curriculum, which focuses on conversational English with an emphasis on face-to-face instruction.
“As of now, the course is paid for by the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and free for students,” she said.
To market the class, Burrow attended Moffat County Board of County Commissioners meetings, Craig City Council meetings, and Spanish masses; visited the Spanish store; and distributed flyers throughout the community.
With the basic and intermediate classes catering to about 25 students, Burrow said, “I cut-off enrollment. I’m taking names for next semester and will make phone calls in August. I was originally hoping for five to eight people. Andreas (Arredondo) was the first teacher. I needed a second teacher, so Patty (Maradiegue de Wagner’s) came on board. And then, we added a third class.”
This is Arredondo’s first semester of teaching As a student himself, studying health care administration through Adam’s State University, Arredondo’s first task was to foster shared goals.
“It’s challenging. Its fun adding to our repertoire and building camaraderie,” he said.
Access to resources from the school and community is already helping Mayola Cruz.
She attempted to take an ESL course at CNCC in the past, but this time, she’s experiencing more success.
“We try to be integrated to this county. We are looking for something from the community college that it can offer. It takes time, but now we have it,” Cruz said.
In addition to instruction, textbooks, and workbooks, students are also assisted by a career navigator, who goes over each student’s goals and provides assistance in attaining them.
“We work on their goals to get the help that they need,” Burrow said. “I want them to feel successful.”
Bookcases in the back of the rooms hold additional resources, including a book of fact sheets that provide information about citizenship, job openings, how to create a resume, and where to find other resources in the community.
Nancy Verdugo said her daughters motivate her to learn English.
“In my work, most of the people that work there, they speak English, so it is necessary for me to communicate,” she said. “When you go to the doctor or a restaurant, I feel shy sometimes, because I can’t explain myself.”
In Patty Maradiegue de Wagner’s basic ESL class, students are working on how to introduce themselves. First, they hear it. Then, they repeat before practicing one-on-one with the teacher and one other.
“Say hello, what you do, and make eye contact,” Maradiegue de Wagner said. “In this culture, we make eye contact.”
The social and cultural lessons continue for students in Eveline Bacon’s intermediate ESL class. They work on contractions and listening to the “hidden sounds” in common phrases.
“‘I will’ is ‘I’ll,'” Bacon said. “What is the contraction for “‘I will not?'” A student tentatively offered “‘will’nt?'”
“No, it’s ‘won’t,'” said Bacon. She called on another a student and asked, “How would someone ask to marry you?”
The student replied, “I don’t know. I’m single,” causing class and teacher to laugh before Bacon responded, “Will you marry me?” More laughter before a student replied, “No, I won’t.”
ESL classes have been in session for six weeks and will continue through June. Some students attend more than one session.
“We really want to be here,” said intermedia ESL student Gladis Alcantar.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1790 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.