November 2005

  1. Sally's Ramblings
  2. ESL Update
  3. Monthly Tip: Observe Another Teacher
  4. Site Spotlight: Sundays at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas
  5. Students Talk Back: Findings from Our Latest Focus Groups
  6. November's Vignette: Albert's Story
  7. Bits and Pieces
  8. About Us

Sally's Ramblings

"Go into my vineyard."

It's Thanksgiving time, and I want to thank you for answering the Gospel’s call to serve others. You are the untiring laborers who work in the Lord’s vineyard, and Hogar Hispano’s ESL staff is honored to work with you. You, our wonderful volunteers, know that it is only by giving to others that we can truly achieve happiness and fulfillment in our lives. Your examples are a great inspiration to all who witness your work. Together, we are a community in action!

Please encourage your friends and family to join our community of action by serving as a volunteer for Hogar Hispano. We are looking for volunteer teachers and site coordinators for January! We would also love assistance in the office, especially with data entry. If you know anyone who is interested, please have them contact our volunteer coordinator, Belle Penaranda ( or 703-534-9805 x239).

Thank you to those who were able to attend the teacher training workshops offered this month. Please check this newsletter for upcoming training opportunities that are not only fun but are chock full of practical tips and information.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sally O’Dwyer
ESL Program Coordinator

ESL Update

Hogar Hispano awarded Virginia Department of Education funding: Hogar Hispano staff were thrilled to receive a third English Literacy and Civics grant from the Virginia Department of Education. The new grant will fund up to three years of intensive classes scheduled to begin in January at Hogar's office in Falls Church. These intensive classes will be offered as part of the new English ETC (Education in Technology and Civics) program. English ETC will provide students with ESL classes across four levels (literacy, beginning, intermediate and advanced). Students may attend classes during two daytime or two evening offerings. The grant will also allow Hogar Hispano to occupy two additional classrooms to accommodate even more students in the Seven Corners/Falls Church region. Some exciting projects English ETC students hope to engage in include class field trips, digital filming to create their own movies and weekly technology workshops. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about or volunteering with this exciting new program, contact Christine Roach at 703-534-9805 x238 or

Quench your thirst for ESL knowledge: It's not too late! You can still attend a workshop in Hogar Hispano's Fall 2005 Training Series. Jodi Nemser-Abrahams, Citizenship Now! manager extraordinaire, will host Civics in the ESL Classroom on Wednesday, December 14th from 7-9 pm at the Hogar. For many of today’s immigrants, citizenship seems like an unobtainable dream. For others, living in the United States without a basic understanding of government and individual rights can impede their ability to succeed. Learn how to integrate these important topics into your ESL classroom and receive information about available resources. (RIGHT: Trainer Christine Roach gets volunteers pumped up at a workshop.)

ESL Boot Camps on Dec. 10th, Jan. 7th and Jan. 14th: All sessions are Saturdays from 9 am-3 pm. Boot Camps are mandatory for all new ESL instructors, but are also great refreshers for our veteran volunteers! If you'd like to attend any of these trainings, please RSVP to Belle Penaranda at

Fun in the sun: ESL staff members Sally O'Dwyer and Belle Peñaranda travelled to sunny Jacksonville, Florida this month to participate in the 2005 International Conference on Volunteer Administration. Sally and Belle attended classes ranging in topics from producing fabulous fundraising events to creating a value-driven volunteer program. Aside from learning wonderful new ways to enhance our volunteers' experiences at Hogar Hispano, the two staff members met and networked with many other volunteer managers from around the world. Now they're happy to be back to implement those new ideas! (RIGHT: Belle and Sally say cheese during the opening ceremony.)

Wrapping up another successful semester: The end of the fall semester is quickly approaching! All classes will take a few weeks off for the holidays, but then get back into gear again in early January. Stay tuned for a winter 2006 class schedule in December, and look for classes hosted at our newest locations: St. Michael Catholic Church in Annandale and St. Veronica Catholic Church in Chantilly.

Looking back on Get Connected: Thank you to participants of the Get Connected! program that was funded by an English Literacy/Civics program through the Virginia Department of Education. This daily program was held at Hogar Hispano’s main office from October 2003-August 2005. Four teaching teams taught daily beginning and intermediate classes offered twice in the morning and twice in the evening, five days a week. Volunteers communicated their daily lessons and reflections to each other via e-mail. These volunteers were also terrific about letting staff temporarily “abduct” students for state-mandated testing twice a semester. Here are some of the highlights from this program:
- Over 40% of more than 300 students met or exceeded steep achievement goals set by the state. Hogar Hispano students outdid many of their peers in similar programs throughout the state.
- More than 50 volunteers were able to serve the immigrant community by teaching to students enrolled in this program.
- Hogar Hispano was able to purchase a computer projector and 15 Dell computers with Pentium IV processors. Students participated in weekly computer classes where they learned to use a mouse, type, use the Internet, open e-mail accounts, use Microsoft applications and more!
Thanks again for your support of this project, and stay tuned for even more achievements as Hogar Hispano launches another EL/Civics venture, English ETC (English Education in Technology and Civics)! (RIGHT: Students from a morning class at Hogar take a break from their computer lesson to pose for the camera.)

Hogar goes to jail: Hogar Hispano’s ESL program continues to make an impact on immigrants throughout Northern Virginia, even offering classes to inmates at the Alexandria Detention Center. ESL staffer Phil Spencer began a 10-week pilot program at the detention center last spring and summer, and now he is back at it again, teaching the classes once a week on Tuesday mornings from 9–11 am. Phil hopes that the program will eventually meet twice a week. If you are interested in volunteering at the detention center, please contact Phil at 703-534-9805 x243 or

Monthly Tip: Observe Another Teacher

WHAT? Observe another teacher and get to know others on your team and the teachers of other classes and levels at your site! Observing another teacher is a two-way street to success for both teachers involved because it opens a dialogue about best practices in the classroom.
WHY? Observing someone else is a great way to get new ideas about how to teach English. Going to another teacher’s class is a training in itself. What better and easier way is there to learn new tricks and get a new perspective?
HOW? Talk to your team teacher and ask to observe his or her class. If you want to go to a different teacher’s class and you don’t have their contact information, just ask your site coordinator to arrange your visit! Let us know how your visit went.

Remember, the idea is to get a new perspective on teaching English so that you can be more effective as an instructor yourself. When you go to someone else’s class, actively participate in all of the activities planned! The more the merrier!

Site Spotlight: Sundays at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas

Students at All Saints participate in an interactive activity.

Sunday classes at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas have been a wonderful success this semester. All Saints has formed an inspiring and diverse group of teachers, including three new volunteers, Paola, Manny and Sofia, and a returning volunteer, Betsy. Site Coordinator Tom Bart has been working hard to enroll over 100 students! Way to go, Tom! On the student front, two of All Saints’ dedicated students, Karine and Wilber, are due to be parents in February! (RIGHT:  Students Karine and Wilber are proud parents-to-be!)

Classes are also held on Tuesday and Thursday nights at All Saints, coordinated by Luis Hernandez. Stay tuned for a later E-news article on Luis and his dedicated crew of volunteers. Keep up the good work, All Saints!

Students Talk Back: Findings From Our Latest Focus Groups

After conducting a series of focus groups with students at the Hogar Hispano site, some common themes were voiced.

These bilingual focus groups provide an outlet for students to talk about how their classes are going, share their learning needs and interests, talk about their concerns and provide ESL staff with general feedback regarding their experiences as Hogar Hispano students.

We were able to group our findings into two categories: things students want and things students are thrilled to be getting in their classes. We hope you'll find this information useful in planning and implementing your own lessons!

Things students wished for:
Things students say they love about their classes: Want to know exactly what your students think? Ask them! The best way to reach students is to ask them what they need! Try to implement their requests immediately to show them that you care about their opinion.

November's Vignette: Albert's Story

At the beginning of our Citizenship Now! late summer session, Albert Tsung (name has been changed to protect the student's privacy) registered for citizenship and English class. Albert was incredibly disheartened after failing his citizenship exam because because of a lack of English skills. He was coming to Hogar Hispano hoping that English class could help him pass. Albert was a devoted, dedicated student. He came to class every day and pushed himself to learn as much as possible. A week after class ended, Albert went back for his second citizenship exam. After his test, he called Jodi Nemser-Abrahams, the project manager, and told her that he had passed! Later that afternoon he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States and officially became a United States citizen. Jodi asked him if the class had helped him in his preparation, and he told her that it had helped immensely. Albert is now one of many Citizenship Now! students to pass the test since the course began last April.

Bits and Pieces

Please help a child in need this holiday season: Hogar Hispano's Social Services department is gearing up for the annual Holiday Gift Drive! Thanks to the generosity of donors like you, nearly 300 children last year received presents. We're currently seeking donations for this year's program. This is not a large financial commitment-- recommended donations are $15-$25 per child --but your donation of a toy or gift card can make a big difference for a family in need this holiday season. The last day to adopt a child is December 2nd. We also accept monetary donations. For more information, contact Tim Gibbon at 703-534-9805 x226 or (RIGHT: Volunteer Ana Maria Mercado helps sort toys in last year's gift drive.)

ESL volunteer positions available:
Paid positions available at Hogar Hispano: Buy a Hogar Hispano T-shirt and tote bag: Promote the Hogar Hispano ESL program and make a fashion statement at the same time! T-shirts are 100% cotton and read, "Hogar Hispano: Serving the Immigrant Community" and come in small, medium or large. The cost is a measly $7 (plus $3 shipping). Tote bags are blue and black, and feature the Hogar Hispano logo (see a picture of the ESL staff sporting the bags below!). They're large enough to carry all of your teaching materials and more! The cost is $10 (plus $3 shipping). Order both for just $20! Send an e-mail to with your name and quantity needed (include your size if ordering a T-shirt) or simply call 703-534-9805 x239.

Other training opportunities:

Practical Ideas for Working with Literacy Students, Dec. 10: 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.

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, x222

Jodi Nemser-Abrahams, Citizenship Now! Grant Manager, x235

Belle Penaranda, Associate ESL Coordinator, x239

Christine Roach, English Literacy/Civics Grant Manager, x238

Phil Spencer, Associate ESL Coordinator, 9/11, x243

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

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