Spotlight on ASC's Amazing ESL Instructors

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Comment dites-vous "incroyable" en Anglais? ASC's ESL instructors, that's how.


Every Tuesday and Thursday evening when most of African Service's staff are heading home for the day, ASC's dedicated English as a Second language, ESL/ ESOL, teachers begin their labor of love: Helping immigrants develop the language and literacy skills they need to interact, engage and build opportunity for themselves and their families.

Lauded as a model for community-based ESOL programs, ASC is proud to provide an exemplary program flexible to the needs of students of all nationalities, languages and academic backgrounds. Staff includes TESOL Coordinator Amy Kaiman, and volunteers Jonathan Parker, Ryah Parker, Sanae Nakayama, Ayesha Rehman, Kethan Takkellapati Rao, and Devon Golaszewski.




"To say that our students show incredible enthusiasm, motivation and aspiration would be an understatement.  They are such a joy to work with and as they progress, their joy in what they are achieving is palpable," said Parker, who began volunteering in 2012 after retiring from a corporate consulting firm.


"The sense of community and camaraderie among our students is wonderful and when class ends, the energy one feels is often electric."


Roughly 25 students are taught each week with each finding a program appropriate to their level. Multiple proficiency levels are offered, beginning with basic phonics in pre-literacy to emerging readers, all the way to a more traditional and more advanced English and Second Language level.


"The lower the level the more intense the need for one-on-one instruction is," Kaimen said, referring to an increasingly-packed conference room led by ASC ESL volunteer teacher Nakayama.


"I started volunteering at ASC teaching ESL in April this year." Nakayama said. "I enjoy working with the wonderful people and students at ASC. Working particularly with students with the least ability to read and write has been, to my surprise, gratifying. My experience has been nothing but compelling and fulfilling."


Kaiman started in 2010, just when ASC's ESOL program was nearing the end of a major Department of Youth and Community Development, or DYCD, grant. "We lost that grant and had to cut way back: We went from teaching twelve hours, four nights a week to just four hours, two nights a week. My job went from 24 hours to four hours a week."


"The silver lining is that we were able to set up a more flexible and targeted program. We've since been really able to switch gears and cater to and design a program based on what the actual needs of the population are."


And the results of this restructuring have been brilliant: ASC has since been named a "model for excellent community-based ESOL programs" by the Lexington Institute and received an "Excellent" rating from a recent DYCD site visit.


The challenges of teaching on a tight budget are overshadowed by the rewards. Two students from West Africa, who have been in ASC's program for many years and had their green cards, weren't able to take their citizenship test because they couldn't do the reading and writing piece of it. They recently received their citizenship after attending ASC's ESL classes, along with tutoring from Ryah, which enabled them to complete the written exam section of the U.S citizenship exam.


"We are working off discretionary funds from the City Council -- we don't even have a real grant anymore," Kaiman said. If this passionate staff somehow manages to do all this without a grant, imagine what they could accomplish with more funding.


Currently, classes meet every Tuesday and Thursday from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. To register, come to African Services during those times and speak with an ESL coordinator to be evaluated and placed in the correct level learning group.


Volunteers are needed for TESOL/Literacy program. For more information call 212.222.3882 or email Amy Kaiman, TESOL Coordinator.


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