English courses in Paso Robles help students learn a second language

Emberlynn Garcia is a success story. She attended an English Learning (EL) class in 6th grade at George Flamson Middle School in Paso Robles.

“It taught me to perfect my English and to write in English, to make paragraphs, to write a story, and it helped me a lot because in this class I was able to pass the exam, so I can get one to choose from,” said Cruz, who is now in 8th grade.

Cruz is one of five people in her household where Spanish is the primary means of communication.

Eustolia Garcia, Emberlynn’s mother, said she spoke Spanish to her children because they were learning English at school. In this way, she learns English with them while her children keep their Spanish.

Garcia, however, is learning Spanish herself.

Garcia said her first language was Mixedco, an indigenous Mexican language. She understands what it means to learn a second language, but it is her mission to ensure that her family is trilingual.

Garcia said she teaches her children basic words in mixedco, Spanish and English.

“I want to communicate with my grandparents because they speak Mixteco,” Cruz added.

According to California Department of Education18% of all students enrolled in public schools in the state learn English and for 82% of them, Spanish is their first language.

“We always try to promote the idea of ​​being bilingual and knowing two languages ​​and all the benefits that come with that,” said Peter Perneel, English teacher at George Flamson Middle School.

According to the Paso Robles Unified School District, there are 1,286 EL students in their schools.

The purpose of an EL class is to reclassify students.

“When a student is reclassified, it means they are proficient in English and no longer need an ELD class for support, which means they are now able to follow a regular class at his grade level and that he can choose an optional course,” explained Perneel. .

Monica Pafumi, principal of Virginia Peterson Elementary, gave a presentation at Tuesday’s board meeting on the number of students learning English.

“In 2021-2022, we reclassified 19 students from kindergarten to grade 5,” Pafumi explained. “So far this school year, we have already reclassified 20 students from grades 1 to 5 and there are another 10 students who could be reclassified before the end of the year.”

“I believe last year at Flamson we had 52 students who were reclassified,” added Perneel.

(EL) teachers are encouraged to speak slowly and enunciate clearly.

“You can also ask the student to take advantage of the teacher’s contextual cues such as facial expressions, as well as gestures, visuals, props,” Perneel said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a huge disruption for students, especially EL students.

“We noticed that a lot of students, EL students, didn’t participate and they didn’t participate just because of the academics but also because they had other things to consider like taking care of a little brother or a little sister. Some students were given hotspots by the district, but they had internet issues at home,” Perneel said.

Cruz was counting on his older sister.

“We had a shared bedroom, so I’d be on this side, she’d be on this side, and then when I didn’t understand anything, I’d be like, ‘when you were in middle school, did you do that? Can you help me ?’ recalls Cruz.

Garcia, who studied to be a teacher in Mexico, would go above and beyond to be there for her children.

She would ask her nieces or nephews for help with her children’s English homework and also takes English lessons to be a resource for her children.

With the return of in-person classes, teachers are seeing the difference.

“Also, when you bring students together, you have the option of asking them to check their understanding more frequently. We have the students who respond orally, you have the students who can also use their bodies to move around the room and demonstrate their knowledge of the subject,” Perneel said.

Cruz pays with her younger siblings and other EL students.

“A lot of their homework is in English. I also participate in this program called Youth Works and I tutor children,” Cruz explained.

Garcia said these classes are crucial for multilingual homes. She also said that it opens up opportunities for children but also for parents as students are often translators from English to Spanish and vice versa.

As required by the state, the district has an English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) and a District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC). Both are programs for parents to get involved.

For more information on how to participate in these committees, Click here.