Adult language classes welcoming immigrants with open arms


Sruthi Lingam

Adult English as a Second Language students Adriana Pardo and Vivian Oropeza review their class worksheet about identifying different types of buildings in a city. Coppell Middle School East hosts the ESL classes every Tuesday at the CMS East Library.

Yaamini Jois, Staff Writer

Shortly after Coppell Middle School East closes for the day, a group of parents and grandparents meet in the school’s library for targeted ESL lessons. They are from different parts of the world but have one thing in common: English is their second, third or even fourth language. 

CMS East Language Acquisition Specialist Laura Bird has coordinated the program at East for five years, with the aid of Coppell Middle School North Language Acquisition Specialist Colleen Cobb. CMS East is the only campus to offer family members ESL classes in CISD. Other campuses’ programs are led by coordinators Shauna Carter, Ashton Wright and Colleen Friskey at Coppell High School, CHS9 and Coppell Middle School West respectively, but only offer students ESL classes. 

The program is open to any family member of a CISD student. Classes are every Tuesday from 5:30-7:00 p.m. in the CMS East Library. The classes also offer many parents opportunities to connect with other families who have recently emigrated from similar countries. 

“We used to have approximately 30 people coming in for lessons in previous years,” said Bird, who has been an LAS for 25 years. “This year we have 50-60 regular students every week.”

Students in the English Second Language class begin their class with “The Hello Song.” Coppell Middle School East hosts the ESL classes every Tuesday at the CMS East Library. (Sruthi Lingam)

Family members in the program come from different backgrounds and have different levels of fluency in English, though most are recent immigrants to the United States. To communicate with one another and the instructors, both instructors and participants use the SayHi Translate app, but participants are encouraged to converse with one another in English.

Families who have recently immigrated to the United States and marked English as a second language are notified about the program through ParentSquare, a tool that CISD has recently implemented to communicate with families that are affiliated with the district. Participants do not have to pay a fee for the classes as they are funded by a Title III grant, dedicated to build ESL programs and provide more English language lessons for students.

“It’s valuable to focus on the sense of community, especially after [the pandemic],” Cobb said. “Parents have felt more isolated since, so we help them feel more connected to Coppell.”

Lessons focus on listening and speaking rather than reading and writing to help students work on conversational English. Bird and Cobb also build the lessons so that family members can get more information about Coppell facilities and the school system. All participants are given an ESL binder with handouts that range from pronunciation guides to different teachers’ contact information. A typical lesson consists of consistent repetition.

“By giving [parents] the opportunity to learn English, they are more engaged with what happens at their children’s schools,” Bird said. “It’s important to build community engagement within students and their families.”

Students in the program are also able to make connections with others who come from similar backgrounds or have children enrolled in the same CISD schools. 

“It’s easier for me to connect with others in English now,” said Hemalatha Ganesal, who has been in the program since the first semester and moved from India. “I’ve learnt more [conversational] English, which has improved my confidence in speaking.”

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