February 2006

  1. Sally's Ramblings
  2. ESL Update
  3. Tips O' The Month
  4. Site Spotlight: Saturdays at St. Leo's Catholic Church in Fairfax
  5. Volunteer Spotlight: Caroline Patterson
  6. February's Vignette: Students at the Alexandria Detention Center
  7. Bits and Pieces
  8. Photo Montage: Field Trip to Washington, DC
  9. About Us

Sally's Ramblings

Time has flown by and the fall semester is now behind us. I am truly humbled by your willingness to sacrifice your free time and the cheerful hard work and effort you put into your classes. Thank you for answering the call of Christ to help those in need. You have given your students the greatest gift of all: the gift of yourselves. I know that they are very grateful.

In the past couple of months, Hogar’s ESL staff hit the streets with class flyers, reaching many immigrants and potential students. We are thrilled to have them sign up for classes. Now we must work hard to keep them. Do what you can to make your new students feel welcome and make your classroom a community.

Please plan on attending one or all of our many wonderful upcoming trainings (schedule is coming out soon). Come and meet other fantastic volunteers like yourself, learn something new and walk away an even better ESL instructor!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for giving your hearts!

Sally O’Dwyer
ESL Program Coordinator

ESL Update

Volunteer survey roundup:

After reviewing surveys recently sent out to 50 randomly selected volunteers, Hogar Hispano staff are focusing efforts on several areas of concern. Terrific suggestions were offered for extending the outreach of the program and for providing additional services, such as targeting colleges for more volunteer support and creating a “talking buddy” list of volunteers who want to help students outside of class. Remember that as volunteers, you are truly the lifeblood of the ESL program! We greatly appreciate your suggestions and efforts. Likewise, we realize that your one-on-one contact with the students offers a unique perspective. Please keep the suggestions coming!

Welcome new ESL staff!

Larissa Jackson, LEAP! Site Coordinator (
ljackson@ccda.net): When I graduated last May from the College of William and Mary, my goal was to find employment with an organization serving the refugee and immigrant population of Northern Virginia. Because of my involvement in several multicultural organizations, I've become aware of and developed a concern for the refugee and immigrant experience in this country. I was teaching ESL in Newport News, Virginia for the Richmond Diocese and was referred to Hogar Hispano for volunteer opportunities after I relocated to Alexandria. I taught for a semester at St. Rita’s in Alexandria before, very happily, discovering a vacancy at Hogar. I enjoy teaching and miss it very much, but I love my new position as the LEAP! (Loudoun English for Adults Program) Site Coordinator. I am based here in the Hogar office, but I venture to Sterling every Tuesday and Thursday night to coordinate and help enhance the fantastic and well-established ESL program at Christ the Redeemer.

Tessa Manicke, Evening ESL Program Coordinator (tmanicke@ccda.net): I went to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. I've been involved in many nonprofit organizations, including United Way, a preschool, and Habitat for Humanity. I've loved them all! My hobbies include running, salsa dancing, spending time outdoors, and playing with kids. People say I laugh and smile a lot. My main responsibility is being the go-to person for the evening ESL program here at the Hogar Hispano office. If you are one of the many volunteers teaching here, chances are, you'll see me traveling in and out of the four classrooms on any given night, personally greeting each student, marking attendance, helping clean up the classrooms, and other troubleshooting duties. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to flag me down-- I'm here for you!

Jeff Michno, EL/Civics Program Associate (jmichno@ccda.net): I'm originally from Louisville, Kentucky. I earned a BS in Marine Biology and a BA in Spanish at the College of Charleston. After graduating, I worked as a tour guide and educator in Chile and Peru. I've also taught elementary school in Maui. I spent this past year in Brazil learning to speak Portuguese and surfing. I'm very excited to be in the DC area closer to my friends and family, and I'm eager to help the immigrant community. While my main responsibilities involve grant writing and sprucing up our outreach efforts to community agencies and organizations, you'll most likely spot me out on the streets, chatting it up with potential students!

Right: Three new cheerful faces joined the Hogar Hispano ESL staff in January. From left to right-- Larissa Jackson, Tessa Manicke, and Jeff Michno.

Hogar Hispano snow policy is in effect this winter: Hogar Hispano and all ESL classes follow a conservative snow policy consistent with county and parish cancellations. Determine where your site is located, e.g. St. Rita's = Alexandria City, Hogar Hispano office = Fairfax County, Christ the Redeemer = Loudoun County, etc. If classes are held during the week, and public schools in that county or city are closed due to inclement weather, then our classes will also be cancelled. If there is inclement weather during the weekend, we will follow respective parish class cancellations, which are usually announced on television or posted on the internet.

If the school system or the parish cancellation notices cannot be ascertained, or if there is any doubt as to the safety of the roads, please cancel classes and call your students. You do not have to wait for official word from Hogar Hispano-- it is better to err on the side of safety! Special consideration should be taken with night classes, as road conditions worsen considerably after sunset. Coordinators and teachers should let each other know of all cancellation decisions, and teachers should telephone their students to relay this information.

To prepare for the winter season as soon as possible: Remember, many of our students are socially isolated and may not be aware of cancellations. Be safe!

Tips O' the Month
Scaffold away!

Maybe you've heard folks talk about scaffolding in their lesson plans. Just what is scaffolding? In a nutshell: providing learners with the support they need to take learning risks by gradually lifting support systems.

Speaking a foreign language and possibly looking foolish in front of other adults is a big risk! How can you minimize the risks and scaffold your students towards building and achieving higher English proficiency? Try teaching in this order:

Model: You can't say until you hear. You can't write until you read. Make sure you give students ample opportunity to listen to you serve as an example for them. Read an entire dialogue on your own playing both roles and don't expect students to do anything more than listen.
Whole Group: Let students practice as a whole group. Minimize risk by letting the class provide one voice in which a few mistakes here and there aren't heard.
Small Group: Let students work safely in small groups that minimize risk!
Pairs: Now that students have more confidence, let them work in pairs.
Individual: Finally, after watching, participating in a whole group, working in small groups and chatting in pairs, it's safe to speak in English as an individual!

Gradually release the risk taking and note a difference in your students' understanding, participation and willingness to speak more English!

Dictionaries are the key to success

Please ask your students to purchase a bilingual dictionary. Help students realize how useful a dictionary is by showing them how to use it in class! Empower students by encouraging them to use a dictionary whenever they don't understand a word or phrase. Looking up words may be a time-consuming process at the beginning, but students will become better time after time. Hogar Hispano has bilingual dictionaries available. Please see your site coordinator for more information.

Site Spotlight: Saturdays at St. Leo's Catholic Church in Fairfax

Left: Volunteer Mars Harmon uses realia in the classroom, encouraging his students to look through newspaper store advertisements.
Right: St. Leo's students practice an interactive activity called Line Up.

The volunteers at St. Leo's Parish in Fairfax are led by fearless leader Al Lopez, the site coordinator. Al has been the site coordinator for many years. He is a pro at running the site and very organized. He is extremely supportive of teachers and sits in on the classes.

Like all Hogar Hispano volunteers, the teachers at St. Leo’s are brimming with talent! Esperanza Miranda exudes positivity and gives her students lots of praise. She keeps the level of teaching simple enough for the students to better achieve the objective of the day. Mel Andrews is very supportive, frank and open with his students. He treats his students with respect and his class is paced well. It's obvious that Mel is great at listening to his students. Andrew Albers helps Mel with role playing to help the students understand. Mars Harmon is very friendly and wears a nametag to keep it personal. He is upbeat, approachable and warm. Mars knows his students very well. Teaching partners Cathy Gates and Lynette Marquina are very professional, caring and kind. Cathy is well-prepared for class and gives her students homework (which the students actually did!). Cathy and Lynette have high expectations for their class, and the students appreciate that.

Keep up the great work, St. Leo's!

Volunteer Spotlight: Caroline Patterson

Caroline and her student, Lesley, discuss a lesson from the textbook.

This month's volunteer spotlight is on Caroline Patterson. She has been teaching beginner level Citizenship and ESL classes non-stop since April. She is one of a team of 13 dedicated volunteers who make the intensive Citizenship and ESL classes possible. Caroline’s favorite part of teaching is watching her students grow and learn. She says of her students, “All of them are truly excited to learn. They try so hard and they are really dedicated to the class and getting the most out of it. I’ve never seen students have such a strong desire to learn like they have.” Caroline’s two favorite activities to do with her students are Circle It and Disappearing Dialogues (see your Teacher's Toolbox for more information on these two fun classroom games). Way to go, Caroline! Keep up the fabulous work!

February's Vignette: Students at the Alexandria Detention Center
By Phil Spencer

As I waited for the automatic steel door to buzz open, I thought, “What am I getting myself into?”

Buzz, click, swoosh, BANG!

Emptying my pockets, I walked through the metal detector. BEEP. Out came the wand. “I think it’s my belt buckle,” I muttered before making it through the security checkpoint. Only one more to go.

Buzz, click, swoosh, BANG!

The door swung open and I stepped into cell block 4CF to meet my students, clad in green jumpsuits.

“Hi, I’m your English teacher. My name is Phil.”

Last spring, Hogar Hispano began an ESL program at the Alexandria Detention Center. Since then, I have become accustomed to the buzz, click, swoosh, and BANG of the doors. Now those sounds signify the anticipation I have of seeing the smiles on my students’ faces. They are the best group I’ve ever had, I tell them jokingly, because there is 100% retention from class to class.

At the end of one of my lessons, a student approached me. Chavez (named changed to protect privacy) confided in me and said that he was getting out that week. He told me how much easier his time at the Detention Center had been because I’d been there to teach him the basic English skills he needs on the "outside," if only for a couple of hours a week. He looked into my eyes, and with a heartfelt “thank you,” he shook my hand and went back to his cell.

I often wonder about Chavez. What he was in for; how long he’d been there before I came along; how his English is progressing. In the meantime, I go back to the Detention Center once a week and hope that my other students can follow in Chavez' footsteps.

If you or someone you know would like to take part in this unique opportunity to help those in need, please e-mail me at

Bits and Pieces

Know the facts about unfair employment practices: Hogar Hispano, in conjunction with the United States Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), provides workshops to both employers and employees to help understand and comply with the Immigration and Nationality Act. Ways in which we can help are as follows: If you suspect that you or one of your students have been denied employment because of appearance, accent, national origin or immigration status, please call the OSC workers hotline at 1-800-255-7688 or Freshta Nawabi at 703-534-9805 x241 for assistance. Employers can call the OSC hotline at 1-800-255-8155.

ESL volunteer positions available:
Paid positions available at Hogar Hispano: Buy a Hogar Hispano tote bag: Promote the Hogar Hispano ESL program and make a fashion statement at the same time! Tote bags are blue and black, and feature the Hogar Hispano logo. They're large enough to carry all of your teaching materials and more! The cost is $10 (plus $3 shipping). Send an e-mail to bpenaranda@ccda.net with your name and quantity needed or simply call 703-534-9805 x239.

Other training opportunities:

Building Community in the Classroom, Feb. 18: Building community in our ESOL classrooms helps learners feel more comfortable with each other, aids in retention and makes a teacher's life easier. So how do we do build community with all the diversity in our ESOL classes? What works at different levels for different cultural groups? Participants will, please, be ready to share their own practices and experiences. The Saturday Training Series for ESOL Teachers and Tutors is offered by Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Adult ESOL and is free and open to anyone working with adult English language learners. Sessions are held one Saturday a month from 9:30 am–11:30 am at Marshall High School (7731 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22043) in Michael Hall. If parking is full in front of the school, please park in the back and enter through the back door of the school. If you plan to attend a session, please RSVP to FCPS Adult ESOL Program at 703-506-2206.

Photo montage: Field trip to Washington, DC

Clockwise from top left: by the Lincoln Memorial; students Juan, Juan, Sergio and
Maria in front of the Washington Monument; in front of the National Mall; by the White House

On November 19, 2005, Hogar ESL staff member Jodi Nemser-Abrahams and Citizenship/ESL volunteer Chris Harvey led a field trip to the National Mall. The students could not believe their eyes when they saw the White House! One student said in amazement, “It looks just like it does in the movies!” In addition to the White House, the group visited the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial. It was a fun-filled day of speaking English, learning about the United States and getting to know one another!

About Us

Hogar Hispano is a non-profit organization that provides assistance to immigrants of all nationalities and religions. As part of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, Hogar Hispano helps newcomers achieve self-sufficiency and successfully integrate into American society by offering a wide range of services at little or no cost. Hogar Hispano offers English as a Second Language classes, legal counseling and representation, naturalization assistance, job placement services, and social services.

We want to know what you think, so write or call us! Thank you for reading!

Sally O'Dwyer
ESL Coordinator
sodwyer@ccda.net, x222

Jodi Nemser-Abrahams
Citizenship Now! Grant Manager
jnemser@ccda.net, x235

Larissa Jackson
LEAP! Site Coordinator
ljackson@ccda.net, x245

Belle Penaranda
Associate ESL Coordinator
bpenaranda@ccda.net, x239

Tess Manicke
Evening ESL Program Coordinator
tmanicke@ccda.net, x222

Christine Roach
English Literacy/Civics Grant Manager
croach@ccda.net, x238

Jeff Michno
EL/Civics Program Associate
jmichno@ccda.net, x225

Phil Spencer
Associate ESL Coordinator
pspencer@ccda.net, x243

Hogar Hispano
6201 Leesburg Pike, Suite 307
Falls Church, VA 22044
Fax: 703-534-9809

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or if you would like to unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send an e-mail to bpenaranda@ccda.net.