Dillon Valley Elementary adds after-school language class for adults
Divided into small groups in the media center, about a dozen adults have been meeting weekly at Dillon Valley Elementary this semester to learn English.
Sharon Aguilar led two students in the intermediate-level group on Wednesday, Feb. 18.
Omero Garcia, 34, a father of two Dillon Valley Elementary students, and Fadys Velasquez, 36, a mother of one elementary student, asked each other questions with English vocabulary and practiced sentences with the words either and neither.
Velasquez stayed focus while her toddler crawled around and over her, at times begging for her attention.
Nearby, a group of five women in the advanced class practiced irregular past tense verb conjugations.
“What did you do last night?” instructor Karin Mitchell asked one student.
“I was to eat?” she responded tentatively.
Another student asked Mitchell the practical difference between two past tenses.
“Don’t worry too much,” Mitchell said. “It’s better just to not worry and try.”
In a partnership between Colorado Mountain College and the Summit School District, two ongoing language projects were joined by a third in January. Instructors from CMC began teaching parents and adults English on Jan. 14 at Dillon Valley Elementary.
THREE PLACES FOR PARENTS
CMC and the school district have worked together to offer adult literacy classes for parents alongside children’s after-school activity sessions at Upper Blue Elementary in Breckenridge. A second morning class is held at CMC in Dillon for parents of young children, and child care is available during some of those sessions.
Adult students at the Dillon Valley and Upper Blue elementary schools pay $20 for up to 15 weekly classes throughout the semester that run for two hours after school.
The student fees are subsidized through grants from The Summit Foundation and The Colorado Grand, and a federal grant through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act also helps the college provide the classes.
Dillon Valley offered a similar program a few years ago that was canceled when interest waned but is now back by popular demand.
The Dillon Valley classes on Wednesdays follow the format of the Thursday lessons at Upper Blue, in its second year, with three instructors splitting students up by level.
At the elementary schools, the students’ children participate in learning activities, have snacks and receive homework help with school district paraprofessionals while their parents study.
When the adults’ two-hour class ends, their children join them for a short activity.
On Feb. 18, the group sang and danced “The Hokey Pokey,” allowing both adults and children to practice words for body parts.
Sharon Aguiar coordinates and instructs the ESL classes for the college and teaches adults in the after-school program at Dillon Valley Elementary.
For now, she said, all the interested adults asked to focus on English, but the instructors hope to add a Spanish literacy component in the future to the after-school program at Dillon Valley Elementary, where all the children learn in both English and Spanish.
She explained that the expanded literacy offerings for adults aim to serve people in the community who can’t attend the English classes at the CMC campus in Dillon.
Some parents, even ones living in neighboring Dillon Valley, find it difficult to travel to the college’s campus or the CMC classes in the morning and evenings don’t mesh with the parents’ work and family obligations.
After-school lessons at Dillon Valley let parents coordinate English class with their schedule since they often are already picking up their kids, and they might feel more comfortable and welcome at the elementary school.
Aguiar said providing child care at the schools during lessons allows children to see their parents studying, learning and making time to better themselves.
The English classes also empower parents, who might not have completed traditional schooling, to help their children with their homework, which increases the kids’ chances of academic success.
SELF-IMPROVEMENT FOR THE KIDS
In the beginner group on Feb. 18, teacher Denisse Diaz asked her students to write down which numbers they heard in her sentences that included prices and other figures. Then she had the adults practice making monetary totals with coins.
When Diaz asked her students to talk about their future goals, one mother said she wanted to be able to read and write in English with her three kids.
“Kids are such a great motivator,” Aguiar said. Still, “to feel confident enough to sit down and read with your kid you have to feel like you can read pretty well.”
When non-English speaking adults in Summit County improve their language skills, she said, they can earn higher-paying jobs and better integrate in the community, making the county safer and stronger economically and socially.
The whole community benefits when parents are able to speak English, said Cathy Beck, Dillon Valley Elementary principal.
“A lot of times right now our children end up being the translators for them out in the world,” said Beck, who often speaks about public schools becoming hubs of learning for the entire community, not just children.
Garcia, a carpenter living in Summit Cove, said he is working to improve his English to help his job prospects.
Aguiar said she was impressed by the adults who regularly come to class after a full day of physical labor or with crying kids in tow, both of which can hinder concentration. The adult students still put forth tremendous effort, she said.
“I love how much the students want to be here,” Aguiar said. “I always feel really energized when I leave.”
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