Think back to when you were in kindergarten; school was so much fun. There were snacks, stories and a lot of fun learning games. But imagine if you couldn’t understand what the teacher said.
That's exactly how the school year starts for a large population of youngsters who attend English as a Second Language or ESL.
Our first 16 Excellence in Education award winner is an ESL teacher who is very proud of her bilingual students.
We surprised Megan Connors in her classroom at Wilson Primary in South Bend. We learned about Connors from the kids who learn from her every day. They sent us pictures and letters to nominate her.
“I like Mrs. Connors because she reads me books,” said student Brenda Alvarez.
“I like Mrs. Connors because she plays games with us,” said student Raphael Coria.
“Mrs. Connors helps me with my writing,” said Adib Juarez.
Some of these students couldn’t speak a word of English just nine months ago.
“Especially in kindergarten, they come in not knowing letters and sounds and by the end of the school year they're reading and writing and adding and subtracting, all that they do it's wonderful,” Connors said.
Nora Hicks was a kindergarten teacher for 13 years and works in Mrs. Connors’ classroom as an EL Intervention Specialist.
“Kindergarten is much different than it was 10 years ago and she just does an exceptional job with these kids,” Hicks said.
Noelia Salazar works as an interpreter. She helped translate a lot in the beginning of the year but just helps with directions now.
“She really expects these kids to do well. She really does care about these kids and we care about where they're going to go on from here on out. We want them to be prepared, to be independent, and be able to learn,” Salazar said.
Mrs. Connors realizes the learning continues at home with other family members.
“Raphael goes home and teaches Mom English by reading books that we learn in the classroom,” Connors said. “There isn't a day that goes by that we don't get a phone call a note or just the kids telling us how appreciative the parents are.”
There are just fewer than 2500 English as a Second Language students enrolled in South Bend Community Schools. There are 11 ESL kindergartens.