English tutoring for parents helps students

By Nancy Gutierrez

A dedicated group of Spanish speaking parents and community members are committed to learning English and have pledged to provide English language tutoring to school aged youth.

Twenty four adult age students have been gathering for four hours at the Lindsay Unified School District to work on English language skills as part of the Community Based English Tutoring program (CBET).

CBET is a state funded program supported by the school district that provides English language instruction to parents and community members in exchange for tutoring to their own children or children not related to them.

"[The class] focus is on daily English, academic English and community resources," said Maggie Bletcher, the CBET director. "We also have people from the community talk to students about what the community or school provides."

The program purpose is to get parents enough skills to help their children with homework and read to the children who are not yet in school. Bletcher said parent interaction is one of the most important part of a child's education.

"What happens in the home is a big factor that raises the level of learning," Bletcher said.

And what happens in the CBET class is a big factor for what happens in the home. Pam Lurz is the CBET teacher. She was a teacher in the Woodlake school district for 25 years. She retired two years ago but wanted to continue educating. Lurz was approached by LUSD Assistant Superintendent Frances Holdbrooks about teaching the CBET courses.

"I thought it would be fun," Lurz said. "I told her I didn't know Spanish and she said 'that's the idea."'

Lurz started four weeks ago. The class, made up mainly of women and just two men, meets in a portable at the district office and works on difficult parts of the English language. Bletcher said the curriculum used to teach the class varies. Fresh Start, a curriculum for adults who struggle with literacy, language and numeracy is utilized by the CBET teacher. Fresh Start contains national standards for adult literacy and numeracy to ensure consistency. Bletcher said Lurz also uses the newspaper in class. But Lurz also incorporates Linguistic strategies like picture cards with English names written next to items in the picture.

"Then there are things we pick up on the edges of what we are doing," Lurz said.

Lurz was showing the students pictures of the Statue of Liberty. After telling the students the quote at the base of the statue they set out to try to translate it into Spanish.

The students go over the arrangement of sentences and review pronouns, the more difficult words to master. Currently they are working on writing skills. The students must also record what homework activities were done with their children in a tutoring journal.

"The idea is to spread what they have learned around the community," Lurz said.

The students are given work to complete at home. Lurz said they always come to class with it completed. Bletcher said students also check out books from a lending library and they are encouraged to read to each of their children for 15 minutes each.

"It's different teaching adults,' she said. "They want to be here. They all work very hard and are focused on their work. They always want their papers corrected."

In the same respect the students are very happy with their teacher.

"She always has time for people," student Mary Banuelos said.

Lurz said that is also part of her job. She hopes that the experience is one that will make the students want to come back.

"My main job is helping with how they feel about school," Lurz said. "Some of them are talking about getting their GED some about going to college."

Many of the students in the class agreed that the CBET program was a step in the right direction to increase their English language skills.

"I know how to read and write [in English] and make sentences," said Maria Corona.

"The class is important because I want to learn to speak English and write. I want to teach my child this for school. He doesn't speak English," Maria Guadalupe Gutierrez Guzman said.

An added comfort for the students is the availability of child care while they are in class. Bletcher said they are limited to how many children can be cared for, but it is available to those parents who have no other outlet while they are at CBET. Lurz said she is impressed by the resources offered to the community.

"There probably is no one who isn't or could be touched by the school system," she said.

There will be two more sessions of the CBET class this school year. The next class will be in January. Bletcher is hoping to start an evening class for parents who can not attend during the day as well as an after noon class. The program is funded for two more years. Bletcher said she hopes the state legislature votes to renew the funding for the program in 2007.

Another CBET session will be offered in January and at easter. For more information on the CBET program contact Bletcher at 562-5111.

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