Annual ESOL Volunteer Luncheon

Yesterday, April 25th, I was pleased to host my 6th annual ESOL volunteer luncheon to recognize my volunteers for the hours they have spent to enrich and enhance the lives of my ESOL students. Many of my volunteers work either in-school or after school tutoring to help ESOL students with homework and preparation for SOL tests. Here is a tally I made of the hours in just the past year that my volunteers have spent so far in service to Goochland County’s ESOL students.

Following are pictures of the volunteers, former volunteers, cohorts, and friends who attended the luncheon yesterday.



Ms. Geri

Following are some pictures of my volunteer, Ms. Geri, who meets with two of my ELLs each week, one in Kindergarten and one in third grade.

Ms. Geri supplements the grade level content my students are currently working on (i.e. Math or Reading). She does this by following our teacher’s blog postings and lesson plans. She also communicates with the teachers. I’m so thankful for her intervention!!! The ELLs always tell me “Ms. Geri” updates whenever I see them:) She makes her tutoring times special and exciting…But, she also ensures that my students receive plenty of one-on-one review in areas in which they need extra instruction. Thanks Ms. Geri for all you do!!!!

New Volunteer for the High School

I want to welcome a new ESOL volunteer to the Goochland High School volunteer program. Rebecca, a talented local architect, has offered to tutor a high school ESOL student once a week in Geometry.

Rebecca boasts of a three year experience of teaching English as a Foreign Language in Mexico. In addition this this experience, she already has made personal connections to ESOL families in the Goochland community. Recently, she has organized a “Coffee and Conversation” event in which she meets with several Hispanic mothers in the Goochland Community who need to improve their English speaking skills.

Thank you so very much Rebecca for your time and consideration toward ensuring that my Goochland ESOL student meets her academic goals.  Also, thank you for also devoting your time to working with Hispanic families so that we can bridge language barriers, thus helping these individuals to become contributing members of our community!

Enabling Future Generations; Spotlighting Mr. Rohrer

Currently, I teach ESOL students K-12 in Goochland County, in addition to working with non-English students at our Prep Academy. ESOL students at our Prep Academy work on GED coursework, an Edgenuity course which provides tutorials and GED coursework in their first language -Spanish.

How do I do this? Frankly, I couldn’t address all the needs of my ESOL students without the help of ESOL volunteers and tutors. Many of these individuals receive very small compensation for the hours they tutor ESOL students. Above is a picture of Mr. Rohrer, a retired Math teacher from GMS, who works with my Prep (GED student) three times a week. He tutors this young man in Math/Science. Without Mr. Rohrer’s additional instruction, which fills this student’s academic gap of 4-5 years of non-schooling, this student would be unable to successfully pass his GED coursework. Mr. Rohrer doesn’t speak much Spanish and my student doesn’t speak much English. So, do they communicate? As you can see in the background, Mr. Rohrer has a laptop and my student has a laptop. They both communicate through Google Translate, by typing into the tool what they want to say. So far, this tool has provided sufficient enough services to allow both Mr. Rohrer and student to understand each other.

Thank you Mr. Rohrer for all that you do for my ESOL student at the Prep Academy! Your dedication and volunteer hours have enabled my student to successfully pass a large part of his GED coursework.


Santa’s Christmas Miracle Field Trip

Our ESOL volunteer/tutor, Ms. Liz, organized a field trip for two of the GES ESOL families today to the Children’s Theater at Willow Lawn, where we all watched “Santa’s Christmas Miracle.” Ms. Liz’s insisted on covering all expenses of this outing as a Christmas present for all of us!!! This was also an opportunity to expose our ESOL families to the arts and culture. The outing was chaperoned by myself and the two ESOL mothers, along with their respective children (ESOL students).

What a blast we all had!!! Thanks Ms. Liz for an amazing holiday present!!! The event was topped off with a visit to see Santa, pictures with the cast of the play, along with lunch at Dairy Queen. Following are some pictures of our day!


Just Can’t Believe It!!!!

This fifth grade ESL student is reading all by himself!!! This picture was taken by our very pleased and devoted ESL tutor, Ms. Liz. What an amazing sight to see for all of those who have been involved with this student’s education. This student has had a long row to how for the first 5 years of his elementary education experience (preK-4). Studies show that students usually show that they can bridge two languages by grades 4 , especially if they receive the support they need in order to acquire a second language. This student has made us all proud this year, as reflected in his MP1 report card where he nearly reached A/B honor roll.

I attribute this student’s success to the following factors.

1). Devoted teachers and tutors who ensured that this student’s academic needs were attended to. This student is reading “Geronimo Stilton,” a high interest book that has many graphic clues and pictures to scaffold. This book was recommended to him by teachers and tutors who kept on encouraging him to find high interest reading.  They also focused on fluency and vocabulary comprehension.

2). Emphasizing leadership. I thank the tutor and certain teachers for believing in this student and emphasizing that he is capable of leadership, despite the fact that he struggles (ed) academically in the past. Currently, this student has been given “safety patrol” position at his school. We have seen so much positive behavior from this student, such as caring about other’s safety and following through to the end (respect and proactivity). This is reflected in the fact that this student is independently reading, as is required every day per homework requirements.


Ms. Sally

I want to recognize Ms. Sally-a tutor and volunteer-who works tirelessly with two of my ESOL elementary students at GES. Here are a few of the things that Ms. Sally has done over the last year to help me with these ESOL students.

1). Reading buddies. Ms. Sally reads with my ESOL student during lunch as a reading buddy.

2). After school tutoring. Ms. Sally currently works one to two days a week after school to assist my ESOL students with their homework tasks and home projects. She helps my ESOL students complete projects that their non-English speaking parents are unable to help them with because of the language barrier.

3). At home tutoring. Last year, Ms. Sally traveled to my ESOL student’s home two times a week and then during the summer months in order to provide at home tutoring. Her summer tutoring extended to other ESOL students in the community-as my student’s home was a gathering place for other ESOL students/parents.

4). Ms. Sally acts as a liaison with parents, teachers, administration. Many times, important letters are not effectively delivered or understood by our non-English speaking parents. Ms. Sally takes the time to ensure my ESOL parents receive important messages/communication or deliver translated letters.

Ms. Sally has saved the day for me on several occasions when I’m not at GES. She fills in the gap or calls me when extra assistance is needed. I couldn’t do without Ms. Sally and her tireless devotion to making sure that the needs of all students are met. Thank you Ms. Sally for all that you do!!!!

Liz’s Latest and Lucrative Inventions!

I can’t help but brag on my ESOL volunteer/tutor, Ms. Liz, who works regularly with two of my ESOL students. Ms. Liz and the teachers work in sync with the teachers, as we communicate daily or weekly about projects or specific homework tasks that need to be completed.

Below are two of Ms. Liz’s latest creations. The first one is the planet project. Ms. Liz assisted our ESOL student not only with completing his planet project, but implementing some ingenuity and creativity. Below is the planet hat that both she and my student came up with, complete with rotating planets and the sun as the center of the solar system.

I would be remiss to mention the most recent project Ms. Liz helped complete with a second ESOL student (sibling of the first:). This weekend, our student was required to create a “product” in which he is required to sell at his economics fair/store at school. Thanks to Ms. Liz’s ingenuity, our student will be selling his lucrative product “dog biscuits” at this fair. Tomorrow in Ms. Cachina’s second grade class, he will learn hands-on experience of what it is like to be a producer and consumer. He is also required to advertise his product. Below are some pictures as he and his brother completed the economics project in Ms. Liz’ kitchen.

Thank you Ms. Liz for all you do for these ESOL students of Goochland!!!!!

ESOL Volunteer Spring Luncheon; 2014

Yesterday, April 26th, we celebrated our 6th annual ESOL volunteer luncheon to honor the Goochland County ESOL volunteers/tutors who devote their time/energy to support ESOL students in the community. I was grateful to my sisters and father/mother, who helped me host the luncheon and to my brother/sister in law, who offered their beautiful Mt. Pleasant home as the setting for the luncheon.

In attendance were Heather Hodges, Liz Smith, Selma Herweyer, and Emily Ray.  Unfortunately, several of my volunteers/tutors were unable to attend. These individuals are Barbara Pickles, Geri Shields, Nancy Ashley, and Sally Hodges. I am ever grateful for the community support that my ESOL volunteers/tutors exemplify.

Ms. Ashley, an Amazing Lady

Last Wednesday, Ms. Ashley and myself made a home visit to one of my ESOL student’s home. Above is a picture of Ms. Ashely and an ESOL student at the family kitchen table.

Ms. Ashley is a math tutor and regular Goochland County substitute who selflessly devotes her time and energy to work with students in the area of math. If I were to coin one phrase that embodies Ms. Ashley’s attitude, it would be “passionate enthusiasm and selfless dedication for student success.” Ms. Ashley patiently prods students when she sees them failing. For example, when a students doesn’t show up to a tutoring session and she sees their grades slipping, Ms. Ashley will pop her head into at my classroom to encourage the student to seek assistance. She will go out of her way to work out an alternative times to meet with students if there are time/transportation conflicts. In addition to being in touch with my student’s math teachers, Ms. Ashley has no qualms to accompany me on a home visit to inform the student’s parents of the importance of arranging after school tutoring sessions.  She goes out of her way to make sure my students succeed.

To add to the time and energy Ms. Ashley pours into working with ALL Goochland County students, she knows how to celebrate their successes. Recently, Ms. Ashley provided my ESOL student with M&M’s when she got an “A” on her test. She even brought my student home-made cupcakes to recognize her birthday.

Ms. Ashley is a truly amazing and devoted Goochland substitute and math tutor, whose services goes unnoticed because she never seeks recognition. Thank you Ms. Ashely for all that you do!!!!

Ms. Selma

I recently submitted the following essay to the Goochland County Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting a “Volunteer Luncheon” to recognize top volunteers serving Goochland County.

“Goochland County Public Schools wants to recognize Ms. Selma, a longtime resident of Goochland County and devoted community volunteer. Ms. Selma has spent many hours in the past 5 years working with ESL students at Randolph Elementary School (2009-2010) and at Goochland Middle and High school (2010-Present). She currently volunteers 6-9 hours each week in the ESL program. Ms. __, who ESL students endearingly call “Ms. Selma,” became interested in working with children who speak English as a Second Language when she made a trip to Ethiopia in 2008. During this time, Ms. Selma worked with 3rd, 4th, 5th grade students in a small urban school. This unique experience was the catalyst for Ms. Selma’s involvement with ESL students in Goochland County. In the ESL classroom, Ms. Selma shows extreme devotion, patience, and attention to these students, who encounter not only challenges with understanding the English language, but subsequently encounter challenges with understanding content of the classes they are enrolled in. She assists students with homework tasks during ESL resource periods and helps the teacher, Ms. Townsend, to differentiate instruction. In addition, to providing much needed one-on-one assistance to ESL students, Ms. Selma showers students with individual birthday or seasonal treats. Ms. Selma adds a special touch to the ESL classes in Goochland Middle and High Schools by providing a much needed community connection. Thank you so much to Ms. Selma!

A Very Special Home Visit

Last Thursday, my volunteer/tutor Heather accompanied me on a home visit to meet the family of my new high school ESOL student. Heather is one of my county approved ESOL volunteers/tutors who has offered her time in both the past and present to work with my ESOL students within and without the classroom. In this situation, Heather will be working with a newly arrived ELL high school student in the home setting two times a week. She will be helping him with his homework tasks, especially with English and vocabulary comprehension. I took the opportunity to introduce Heather to the family and to describe to them the nature of the tasks that both she and I will both be helping this new student with.

This new high school student doesn’t speak much English . For this reason, he is encountering an insurmountable amount of language that he doesn’t understand/comprehend in his classes, such as World History II, Earth Science, Pre-Calculus, English 9 and English 10. His goal is to graduate in two years from our high school setting. In the same vein, he wants to learn to read, write, and speak English. We discussed the challenges he is currently encountering. I took this opportunity to explain to this family the research behind second language acquisition. It usually takes 2-3 years to acquire Basic Interpersonal Communication and 7-10 years just to acquire Cognitive Academic Language Skills. We talked about our goals and how we can go about establishing them in a realistic way. I also brought some sample SOL (Standards of Learning) tests in both reading and writing so that the family could see what this student needs to accomplish in order to graduate from the high school program. By introducing Heather, as a tutor, to the family, we were able to establish some realistic goals related to this high school student’s graduation.

In addition to setting goals, we were able to accomplish several other important things during the home visit. First of all, Heather and I used this time to just get to know the family and to establish a relationship (which hopefully will create a level of trust). During our home visit, we talked about our different backgrounds (i.e. our countries of origin and how we came to the United States).  While the Mexican family shared their immigration experience, I shared my own immigration experience from Canada. Heather also shared that she had lived in Europe (i.e. Poland), where she taught English as a Foreign Language for two years. During this discussion, we found out new information about our new  student, such as the fact he was actually born in California even though he lived most of his life in Zacatecas, Mexico! We also took the opportunity to discuss the similarities and differences between Mexican and US schools. We discussed the need for organization-as this new high school student is forgetting his binders at home. From our discussion, we found out that the use of binders is unfamiliar to this student in his past educational experience-as teachers seldom provide students paper handouts in his former school.  This small conversation was helpful in the fact that it created a bridge of understanding (and diffuse some frustration) between the family and myself/tutor.

Home visits are also very helpful when it comes to working as a team. When we can help parents understand how they can assist us, the teachers, we can in exchange assist them and their children when it comes to becoming more successful in the school system. For example, there are certain things that Mexican families find  foreign to them about US schools. One is the use of technology at school. We took the time to encourage both this family/student to use his electronic translators-which we provide at Goochland High School, and to teach them how to access powerschool and teacher blogs (lesson plans) via the Internet. The use of technology is unfamiliar for certain Mexican families-as many don’t have this type of technology access in their schools.

Fortunately for us, the family we visited on Thursday was much more adept at the use of technology than most ESOL families. This family had their own iPad and invited us to join their family members on Skype (which they streamed from their iPad), from Zacatecas, Mexico. We ended this visit by having a meaningful conversation with other family members half way across the world. How special it was to see their smiling faces and to hear their voices and expressions of gratefulness-to us-the US English teachers who are helping their family member learn English. They even invite us to their home in Zacatecas, Mexico telling us “Nuestro casa es tu casa.”


Living History for ESOL Students

Last Saturday, two of my ESOL students were lucky enough to spend time with an 1812 reinactor, Huffy, the friend of my volunteer/ESOL tutor, Ms. Liz. The boys were provided with a history review of the U.S. Presidents, the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. They were also taught how to salute and to march. They even learned a little about social skills and how a 1812 soldier would have conducted himself as an “honorable gentleman.”


ESOL Volunteers

Ms. Geri is one of my ESOL volunteers. Currently she is working with two of my elementary ESOL students in the home setting. While several of the ESOL volunteers volunteer in the school setting, there are benefits to having volunteers in the home placement.

1). In a home placement, Ms. Geri can be a liaison between teachers and the parents. She relays important messages to the parents in person on a personal level. We all know there are many letters sent home from teachers. Many of my ESOL parents speak limited English and have a very difficult time deciphering the letters and assignments that are sent home. With Ms. Geri’s guidance, she is able to support the parents who desire to assist their children, but feel frustrated because they do not have the educational background or language abilities to assist.

2). Ms. Geri helps to bridge the cultural gap between the Hispanic culture and the American culture. Miscommunications can occur between teachers and my Hispanic parents. If there is a volunteer in the home, they can provide insight or write me to ask for clarification/explanation regarding the miscommunications or misunderstandings. My volunteers “keep me in the loop” with essential information that is important to the academic and emotional success of my ESOL students.

3). The academic support that Ms. Geri provides to students during her tutoring/volunteer times are so helpful to me as an ESOL teacher. I am currently employed to work in three different schools in Goochland County-K-12.  Because of the nature of this ESOL program, I could not operate nearly as successfully as an ESOL teacher without the additional support.

4). Ms. Geri brings with her an array of prior job skills-one of which is teamwork and communication skills. Ms. Geri write me on a weekly basis to ask questions or for insight, to request information or materials, to relay important information, or just to summarize the things that she’s done with my ESOL students. In the age of technology, the home volunteer placements with ESOL students has been made easier by the fact that my volunteers can check the teacher blogs of my ESOL students on a regular basis. It is essential that the volunteers correspond their tutoring sessions with that of the regular content teachers, which Ms. Geri does. Communication and teamwork skills are essential to being a successful volunteer.

Thank you Ms. Geri for all that you do for the Goochland ESOL community! I believe that your service and commitment to the community is part of what makes America great. Through these acts of service, I believe we are empowering a new generation of  Hispanic children to become successful and contributing members of our society.


Ms. Geri’s Home Visits

This week my volunteer, Ms. Geri, will make her first home visit by herself to work with one of my ESOL kindergarten students. Last week, I made a visit with Ms. Geri to the home to introduce her to the student’s family. I also brought materials/books for Ms. Geri and the family to work on together. I brought two sets of alphabet booklets from Reading A-Z in both Spanish and English. I asked my Spanish-speaking mother to review the Spanish letters/corresponding words with her child. I asked Ms. Geri to focus on reviewing the English version of the booklets.

In addition, I brought a set of the following books that are written in Spanish/English. I will be asking Ms. Geri to find the corresponding books in English while the mother reads the same books to her child in Spanish. Here are the books:

I just received an email from Ms. Geri, summarizing her first home visit. Here is part of her email to me, summarizing some of the very helpful things she’s doing to support the student and the teachers. Thank you Ms. Geri, for your very important intervention in this ESOL student’s life.

“Hi Renae, It went very well yesterday – I arrived at 3:30 and he was eating his snack so I had to wait awhile for him to finish.  His mother and I decided it would be better if I get there at 4pm going forward to give him a chance to have his snack and unwind.  Since next week is Thanksgiving and I won’t be seeing him Wednesday/Thursday, I am going to go on Monday afternoon to his house so we won’t lose a whole week.

Yesterday, we began with letters. We reviewed A thru F and then I tried doing some things to see if he would recognize these letters - like using flash cards and mixing them up and asking him to find the “A”, “B”, etc.  I will focus on the next 6 letters next week. We also worked on him spelling and writing his name – he did well on this.

Thanks, Geri”


The Importance of Home Visit

This afternoon, an ESOL volunteer, Ms. Barbara, and myself made a home visit. The objective was three-fold.

The first reason for the visit was so I could introduce Ms. Barbara to the family. Ms. Barbara will be doing home placement volunteering once a week, starting this month. She will be working mainly with the kindergartner in the home-in addition to being homework helper for the two older siblings who attend middle school.

The second reason for the visit was so that I could bring reading materials-both in Spanish and in English. I printed out a whole set of Reading A-Z readers in BOTH Spanish and English (ABC’s). Ms. Barbara will focus on reading the English version to the student. I encouraged the mother to read the same set of books in Spanish.

Finally, my third reason for the visit was to continue my relationship with the family and the parents. This is the fifth year I have served the three children in this family. I’m starting to feel like a regular household guest. I find that this relationship is enormously helpful in my role as ESOL teacher. For further info on the power of the positive relationship with student’s families, refer to this article by Elena Aguilar.

Graduating Senior

Ms. Liz, our High School ESOL volunteer, and myself attended my graduating ESOL student’s graduation in June. We are SO proud of her accomplishments. Following is a picture with this  ESOL student, myself, and Ms. Liz at her graduation.

I also made a special field trip with this student/her mother to the Richmond Zoo as a farewell parting gift. We are going to miss this student SO much:) I wish her all the best in her future endeavors, which hopefully include flight attendant school. Please refer to the earlier post re: the senior project that she completed this past year.

ESOL Volunteer Recognition, 2012

Volunteers_2012 2

Saturday, April 21st, I hosted a get-together for my volunteers to recognize their hard work and dedication to my ESOL students in Goochland County (Goochland Elementary, Goochland Middle, and Goochland High).

Following are some excerpts of the things that my ESOL volunteers currently do -both in school and outside of school- to support my ESOL students/families.

Ms. Kit and Ms. Billie: In addition to providing academic support, both volunteers make routine “home visits” and provide support my ESOL parents, who speak limited English. They assist both students and parents with at-home academic assignments. They also help the families to fill out applications and they are influential in helping my students enroll in community programs like Head-Start, YMCA after-school program, library services, or the Goochland Christmas mother. Ms. Billie is called “Gigi” for short. Both Ms. Kit and Ms. Billie are considered part of my ESOL students’ families as they both have been with their ESOL placements for close to three years. Ms. Kit informed me yesterday that she will be “resigning” her position as ESOL volunteer (only re: providing academic assistance). The impact she has made on her ESOL family will always remain and she continues to be a friend/mentor. Thank you Ms. Kit for all you have done!!!! And thank you Ms. Billie for all you continue to do:)

Ms. Liz and Ms. Ann: Both of these ladies provide support to my one high school ESOL student. They offer this student intervention inside and outside of the classroom. Ms. Liz provides tutoring in both English and Environmental Science to a HS student when she visits our ESOL resource class once a week. This allows me to differentiate and work with lower level ESOL students during the same class period. Ms. Ann has provided assistance to this same student outside of the classroom setting. She was influential in providing the student with the contacts necessary to complete a senior project, which involved creating a video. Ms. Ann assisted the student from start to finish with completing career surveys, researching and investigating career options, and interviewing different community leaders. She even coached the student through the taped interviews!!! This allowed me-as a teacher- to focus on the academic side of the project which involved compiling the information into a written project, editing, and creating the final presentation). These two ladies have been more than academic advisors to my high school ESOL student. They have also provided friendship and mentorship, which my student and her family couldn’t have done without.

Ms. Selma and Ms. Barbara: These ladies are integral to the middle school ESOL program. They provide in-class support to my 6th and 7th grade students during ESOL resource classes. They always come on time and I can always count on them to provide a bright spot, alleviating some of the stressors of the academic routine (especially during SOL testing time). We can always count on these ladies to walk through the door with cupcakes or chocolates, providing my ESOL students much-needed humor and affection:) They work with my higher-level ESOL students on homework assignments (i.e. providing direction and assistance to complete complicated research projects or writing assignments). In addition, they help my students with organization and test-taking skills. Again, this allows me to differentiate and work with lower level ESOL students who greatly need the one-on-one academic support. Thank you Ms. Selma and Ms. Barbara for all that you do!!!!