Students share their experiences in the English Language Development program

Iris Breckenridge, Editor-In-Chief

For the majority of students at LO, English is their first language. But as tough as classes are in the first place, imagine trying to learn calculus or chemistry when it’s being taught in a language other than your first language. This is the case for numerous students. Despite this language barrier many of our students have been able to adjust more easily with the help of the English Language Development (ELD) program taught by Leanne Mann, the English Learner Specialist. 

The ELD program is not only a program, but also a class. Some students take the ELD class, but Mann also teaches an English class for English learners so they can get their English credit, but can take this version instead of a regular English class. While not all English learners are in these classes, Mann monitors these students as well to provide English support with their own classes. “I have a certain amount of students that I teach English and probably about a third of them don’t take the ELD class. I have kids who are in the ELD class just for support, but they’re not in the English class [and students that] take the English class but aren’t in the support class,” Mann said.

To enter the ELD program students take an English assessment that consists of the four domains of language: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Not everyone qualifies either because their English is proficient enough to be in a regular English class and/or they are too proficient to be in the ELD class, which is geared more towards beginners and early intermediate students. 

The class follows the same board adopted materials so it is similar to a regular English class that way, but differs with the grade levels and is known as scaffolded because it has freshmen through seniors in it. And because it has mixed grade levels in it, pieces of each grade’s curriculum are incorporated into the class. “We have themes for each of the curriculums, but they are global ideals for each level…so I take the global and I teach portions of each of the levels,” Mann explained. 

Leaving the program is similar to entering it. “Each year the students take an assessment…called the English Language Proficiency Assessment Summative,” Mann said. It is similar to the qualification assessment, but in order to pass it students have to get a proficient score in each domain. Because the assessment is yearly, students may test before they have graduated from LO. 

But the ELD program is only a part of the English learners’ experiences at LO. Moving from a foregin country, there are lots of cultural differences as well as school differences.

Recently moving here from Chile, junior Valentina Quezada explained how changing class rooms was a big change for her. She said it was really surprising how “you have to change classrooms. We stayed in the same classroom all the time.” 

Also surprised with the classroom changes at first was senior Sasha Fefelova, who is in her fifth year at LO. “What surprised me most were the differences in the school systems,” she said. “In Russia, students stayed with the same group of about 20-30 people for an entire year. When I moved here, I was surprised that I had different people in different classes. I could meet a lot of new people and also could take elective classes, which was the biggest difference.” Another senior, Jay Hempstead explained how “it is a better place compared to where I used to live, and people are nice.”

Despite the language barrier, Fefelova said adjusting academically was easier for her. “Even in my first year, I did not struggle with my classes. There were some challenges, especially with learning a language, but overall, I found my middle school classes relatively easy.” 

While some classes are easier than others, core classes are usually among the more difficult ones. “During my first couple of years in the U.S., English and history classes were the hardest for me since they involved a lot of reading writing in a new language,” Fefelova said. “However, these classes, along with the supportive teachers in them, helped me improve my English vocabulary and writing skills.” 

Adding to the list of hard classes, Quezada talked about Pre-calc. “It is really hard because I don’t know some words,” she said. “[Sometimes] I don’t understand what they are asking me, but I know how to do it and because of the language it is [harder].” In spite of these challenges, both Quezada and Fefelova have received a lot of support from her teachers. “They are really helpful. They come and ask me if I need help with something, not only from her class, but anything that I need,” Quezada said. Fefelova added, “My teachers were all very supportive. I am especially thankful for my LA/SS teachers I had at LOJ since they supported me in my process of learning English during my first year here.”

Despite any academic challenges, both girls agreed that it wasn’t hard to adjust socially. “It’s not hard for me to make friends and meet people,” Quezada said. Fefelova explained, “Initially, it seemed like it would be difficult for me to adjust socially because of the language barrier, but very soon I understood it wasn’t true. I quickly found people interested in the things I was interested in: math, snowboarding and some tv shows.” 

Adding to their sentiments, Hempstead said, “My social adjustment has been better, I can understand most of the words and am able to talk to others. It has been easier to adjust because I started to talk with people, and I understand English better.

Teaching us all a good lesson, Fefelova finished, “Even if we were raised in different counties, we shared these passions.