ESL teacher connects with students

February 2, 2010 — by Lillian Chen

Tonio Galoic raises his hand, confused about the English words he has never learned that stare back at him. Teacher Sara Tseng walks over and spends time with Galoic, helping him to comprehend what he is reading.

Galoic is a foreign exchange student from Croatia who is learning English and one of 15 students taking Tseng’s English Language Development class, or ELD. The class focuses on developing students’ English reading, speaking and writing skills.

Tseng has been teaching the ELD class for the past two years. Her students come from diverse backgrounds and speak languages such as Spanish, Thai, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin.

“We use a textbook and many other different supplementary sources for them to learn,” said Tseng. “There is not an actual, strict curriculum that ELD students need to follow.”

For teachers to be able to have English learners in their class, they need to complete an authorization called CLAD, which stands for Cross Cultural Language and Academic Development. Many teachers in the district did this last year after being audited by the state and found to be out of compliance with requirements.

Besides having a faculty that is now much more legally able to teach these students, the English department has sought to help English learners by creating a library of simplified independent reading books. Books range from first grade to high school level books for the students to read depending on their own individual level.

In addition to the library of independent reading books, writing assessments and rubrics are used to assist them for doing well in the regular English classes they take. English teacher Natasha Ritchie said the school also offers simplified novels as well as original novels, but it is all up to the student on whether or not he or she wants to use it.

Many of the ELD students came to the United States around two to three years ago and are placed into the class due to non-fluent English skills, and each of the students has individual needs.

With English also being her own second language, Tseng is able to understand how the students feel. Tseng feels that it is “still very challenging” because she needs to meet each student’s different needs, but she feels a special connection with them.

“I put myself in their shoes, and I can understand how they feel,” said Tseng.

Tseng tries to talk one-on-one with each student to see how they feel and to figure out what they need. “Having such a small class of 15 students definitely helps because each student needs individual attention,” said Tseng.

“It’s been challenging but very rewarding. I have learned a lot from teaching this class, and I am glad to have the chance to teach this class,” said Tseng.