IN THIS ISSUE:
Cindy Brown, Associate ESL Coordinator
Diana Gibson, Associate ESL Coordinator
Erin Maradiegue, Associate ESL Coordinator
Kristen Gasimov, Associate ESL Coordinator
Sheila Sullivan, Associate ESL Coordinator
Phil Spencer, Associate ESL Coordinator
Patrick Bingham, Intern
6201 Leesburg Pike
Falls Church, VA 22044
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Summer is finally here! I’m always delighted until I realize it’s going to be this muggy outside until August.
Exciting things are afoot at Hogar. First, allow me to welcome John Odenwelder, the new Program Director and newest member of our team. Or better said: an old member of the Hogar family. John actually started out as a volunteer site coordinator at St. Anthony’s ESL program! We are pleased to have a fellow ESLer overseeing Hogar Hispano.
Secondly, our new site at Berkeley center in Arlington is up and running! We have partnered with AHC, Inc., a nonprofit developer of quality affordable housing, to offer ESL classes in community centers on two of their properties. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to make classes so accessible to students!
In other news, John Enzmann and Pequitte Schwerin, our two very dedicated Ignation Lay volunteers, are completing their one year of service on June 26th. Please see the article below to find out just how amazing these two individuals are.
Lastly, I wish you a thoroughly enjoyable summer. I hope it means trips to the beach, Fourth of July fireworks, visits with friends and family, travels to exotic locations, picnics, boat rides, biking and everything in between.
Un abrazo fuerte,
ESL Program Coordinator
Greetings volunteers! For those of you who have not met me or worked with me before, my name is John Odenwelder. I am the new Program Director for Hogar Hispano, with responsibility for both the ESL and Legal Services teams, which are both located at our offices here on Leesburg Pike.
Following on the heels of Amy White—the former Hogar volunteer who is now our hard-working ESL Coordinator—I too made the leap from volunteer to full-time employee. I was the ESL site coordinator at St. Anthony Parish here in Falls Church for many years, so I know all too well the challenges of running a large ESL program out of a school cafeteria! But I kept coming back year after year because I was inspired by the students we served each week and, just as importantly, by my fellow volunteers (many of whom had been volunteering for Hogar for more than a decade).
About a year or so ago, I told Sally O’Dwyer (then ESL Coordinator, now Associate Director for Community Services) that I derived more satisfaction from my four hours a week of Hogar volunteering than I did from an entire work week at my “real job”. So after some serious soul-searching and discussion with my wife, I decided to leave Corporate America after 15 years to come work here at Hogar Hispano full time.
Unlike most of the other Hogar employees who speak Spanish so well, I am fluent in French, having lived and worked in France and Belgium. So, I have embarked on learning Spanish on nights and weekends, just like many of our students who are on the path to learning English. It never ceased to amaze me how my students—many of whom worked multiple jobs and cared for large families—could still manage to carve out a few hours each week to learn English.
And, as a volunteer who was also a full-time worker and father of two, I have the utmost respect for all of you who somehow manage to squeeze in lesson planning and teaching between your jobs, your families/friends, and your many other commitments. Saint Francis said, “Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” On behalf of the team here at Hogar, I want to thank you for combating fear and ignorance within our local immigrant community through the generous gift of your time each week. This agency could not accomplish its work throughout the Diocese without the dedication of people like you.
In the coming weeks, I hope to get out to many of the sites to meet you and to thank you in person for your commitment to Hogar. In the meantime, please feel free to call, e-mail, or even stop by my office here in Falls Church. I am always open to feedback on how our program is running and ways that we can expand our services to the local immigrant community.
Patrick Bingham is a senior at George Mason University studying Latin American Studies and Spanish with a minor in Linguistics. In 2005, he studied abroad in Santiago, Chile at the Universidad Del Desarrollo, where he enriched his Spanish skills and sparked his interest for Chilean history. As the new intern for the months of June and July, Patrick is looking forward to learning more about Catholic Charities and the ESL program at Hogar Hispano, and how the not-for-profit organizations function. After graduation, he plans to further his education in Latin American Studies and the Spanish language, and eventually live abroad.
A Wedding Announcement
The Hogar staff gives heartfelt congratulations to ESL Associate Coordinator Phil Spencer for his recent marriage to Elissa Bretz. The couple celebrated the occasion June 2, 2007 in Traverse City, Michigan with family and friends. Elissa, a George Washington Law school graduate will begin a clerkship in Norfolk this August. Best wishes to the new couple!
Encouraging Conversation in the Classroom
Many ESL students consistently rank speaking as the skill they feel is most important they need to learn. When planning a lesson, always try to include an opportunity for students to practice production of the language they have just been taught. Guided conversations, usually in small groups, allow students to combine older skills with recently learned ones in a realistic manner. Here are some ideas to keep the conversation flowing in your classroom:
Task-based conversation: A group of students sitting together will not automatically produce conversation if they are only given a topic to discuss. Instead, if they are required to find out information from each other or reach a unanimous decision by persuading one another, their group will have a clear goal to reach. All the students must interact in these situations.
One example: each group is given a list of about 20 common camping objects (matches, a tent, bottled water, canned food, flares, etc.). The class is told that they have survived a plane crash and are in the middle of a forest. They can only bring 5 objects with them, and as a group they must decide which 5 objects are most important. An exercise such as this, that forces everyone to agree, encourages all the members of the group, even the quietest and least likely to speak, to offer their input. Another example: each group is given a profile of a person’s talents and experience and must decide upon the best fit for a career among a selection of classified ads.
Though many teachers have no trouble getting their students to speak, for those that do, problem-solving activities can often stimulate more extensive conversation that simple discussions.
When I retired last year, I began to look in earnest at things I might usefully do. My wife Carol gets credit for the idea of volunteering as an ESL teacher; today, she is also an ESL volunteer for Hogar Hispano. I began volunteering because teaching English to newcomers to help them reach their full potential is simply a good thing to do. For me, it turns out to be an enriching, enlivening experience as well. The students are inspiring.
I did not go into this "willy-nilly". Before starting, I called around to get more information. I contacted government continuing education offices, Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, friends, and Hogar Hispano. The first thing I discovered was that I did not need to know the language the students spoke to be an effective teacher; I did have to have a good grasp of English. In my research, I also learned about a book titled The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, and as it turns out the book has had a profound effect on how I approached teaching students at the intermediate level for English.
Pinker's book explains that the day we are born we are wired for language- we are instinctively capable of learning a language. The challenge is to bring that ability out. Using this idea as a guide, I make sure I spend a good portion of each class encouraging students to talk, to use the vocabulary they have. They discover for themselves that they know more English than they think they know and can be understood. It seems to me that the main task at the intermediate level is building confidence. Mastery of grammar, sentence structure, etc. will come in due course.
One of my students is Japanese, and as far as I know, there are very few words common to Japanese and English. Beyond that, she has had to overcome the problem of a totally different script. (If you've ever been to Japan, you know how daunting it is to see signs and not have the slightest idea about the meaning.) She has been in the US less than a year and appears to me to be the best English speaker in the class. She has the language instinct; she uses the English she knows and uses it well.
I noticed that a young woman from the Dominican Republic hardly spoke in class. However, when I gave instructions to the class and some students did not understand what I was saying she would provide the instruction in Spanish. Well! Here was a case of someone who knew English quite well but was concerned about speaking it. I had offered extra time for one-on-one sessions but she was the only one to take me up on the offer. We agreed to meet one hour before the Monday and Wednesday classes. It turns out she did know a lot more English than she demonstrated but that her pronunciation was weak, mainly because she attempted to speak as rapidly in English as she did in Spanish. To slow her down, I hit on the idea of me reading something and her following and reading the same thing. Vocabulary and sentence structure were minor problems. She began to move forward very nicely. She is a nanny for three children and so I encouraged her to read to them and ask them to correct her pronunciation. I understand that she tested very well this semester and is moving to a higher level on the ESL track.
All of the students have impressed me with how amazingly hard working they are inside and outside of class. Their ages range from 21 to senior citizen which indicates to me that the desire to learn is not governed by age. Most work one job, some two. They get to class by bus. (The most interesting class discussion we had was about the students' experience on the bus. Everyone had something to say. We could have talked for an hour about that topic!) Sometimes, their bosses don't keep their commitments to permit students to attend class regularly. The students make do and come to class as often as they can. They have plans for the future based on learning English-becoming a citizen and getting a better job. It is personally moving to be associated with such people.
My own family experiences have also motivated me to volunteer as an ESL teacher. My grandfather came to the US from Poland early in the 20th century. He died at age 75 after living here about 50 years. He never learned English. The Polish community in which we lived did not require it. (Sound familiar?) I did not learn Polish. My boyhood friends insisted that I speak "American." I spent a lot of time with my grandfather and loved to sit next to him and smell the smoke from his pipe, but because of the language barrier, it was like a vow of silence in the house. He must have had a thousand stories to tell. I heard none of them and I regret that. I'm sure that the students I work with will have a thousand stories to tell their grandchildren. However, based on historical experience in the US, the chances that their grandchildren will speak their grandparents’ native language are very remote. I hope that unlike my grandfather's stories, my students’ stories will be heard by their grandchildren-in English.
There is a need to honor ones origins while understanding and being committed to the American dream based on hope. In this respect, I would finally like to learn Polish in my advanced age and return to my mother's homeland to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL) to get deeper into my knowledge of self and my origins. I understand a parallel desire of the students I teach to return to Peru, Morocco, Japan, etc. to do the same.
Tom Maher celebrates 20 years as a volunteer
May 22, 2007 marked Thomas Maher’s 20th year of volunteer service with Hogar Hispano. Over the years Tom has worked with Hogar’s legal services providing invaluable assistance to dozens of immigrants seeking Employment Authorization and Temporary Protected Status renewal. In addition to offering his help to the immigrant population for so many years, he has been a good friend to the Hogar family. Thank you Tom for your steadfast commitment to Hogar’s mission of welcoming the stranger!
A special thanks to Hogar Hispano's Lay Ignation Volunteers
Here, at Hogar Hispano, our success depends in a large part on our volunteers. Whether serving as a site coordinator, teaching ESL classes, translating outreach materials, or helping in the office, our volunteers are the backbone of our program. Thanks to the Ignation Volunteer Corps, we have been blessed to have two wonderful, dedicated volunteers, John Enzmann and Pequitte Schwerin, working two days a week, every week, for the past year at our Hogar Hispano office. John and Pequitte are truly dedicated and have used their expertise to help us with a multitude of projects throughout the year. John, a member of the US Navy before retiring and working in the information technology field for 17 years, has been an immense help in ensuring that Hogar Hispano will pass the upcoming Catholic Charities accreditation with flying colors. His management experience has come in handy on many occasions and we can always count on him to tackle our student and volunteer databases with energy and focus. Pequitte, a retired military nurse played a huge role in helping us to get the second edition of our beginner textbook, Speak Out in English, ready for publication. Without her, determination and eye for detail we may not have met our deadline! Among her other projects, Pequitte spearheaded a hugely successful toy drive at Christmas, and wrote a grant to St. Luke Church to obtain funding for a summer Hogar ESL intern (see Pat’s Intro above). Together John and Pequitte took on new roles, as ESL teachers for our morning advanced-level class. They were an excellent example of team-teaching at its best and their lessons plans were always dynamic well thought-out. John and Pequitte have become indispensable to us and have helped Hogar Hispano in more ways than it would be possible to list in a few paragraphs. With deep appreciation, we would like to thank them for their selfless service to Hogar Hispano. While we are sad to see them go, we wish them the best in their upcoming marriage and their future together!
Noé, a 22-year-old student at Christ the Redeemer, lived the majority of his life in Gotera, El Salvador, before coming to the US some four years ago. Due to the intense poverty in his home country, Noé decided to follow his three older brothers to the US so that he could help send money to his struggling family. They had not seen each other in many years. In addition to supporting his family, he had a strong desire to learn the English language.
After moving to the US, Noé began to work as a construction worker building homes. When he began his job, he had very limited English, and could barely speak to his boss. Deciding that this was not the way he wanted to live in the US, Noé realized he needed to begin taking English classes. Noé’s first two English classes took place in Falls Church and in a church in Leesburg, Virginia, but something just didn’t click. Finally, a year ago, Noé found the ESL program at Christ the Redeemer, and started in the beginning class. Each new semester, Noé advanced one level in the ESL program, eventually ending up in the advanced class for the current semester. Noé especially enjoys the conversational portions of class, as they provide practice for real-life situations.
Noé’s improved English has helped him out immensely, and has even opened up informal leadership opportunities. Now, when he goes to work, he interprets for his boss on a regular basis. His boss, who also helps him with English, will tell him what the workers need to do for the day and Noé will relay the information to them in Spanish. He even said that when he goes shopping or goes out, people have more respect for him, because he has the ability to ask common questions, like “How much does this cost?” or “Where can I pay for this?” One major instance where his English helped was when he was pulled over by a police officer while driving and was able to clearly respond to all the questions and able to follow all the orders given. Christ the Redeemer’s ESL program helped Noé with more than just learning English—he gained the confidence and skills required to persevere and succeed in the US.
Noé with his Thursday night Advanced teacher, Cate Fantozzi, after receiving his certificate of completion for the the Spring 2007 semester at Christ the Redeemer.
As the spring semester came to a close, sites celebrated another successful term with food, music, and dancing. Take a look at pictures from some of the fun end-of-the-semester parties.
Thank you to all of the teachers and site coordinators for all your hard work this session. Have a wonderful summer and see you this fall!
Beginning July 30, 2007 citizenship application fees will nearly double from $330 to $595. Because of this rise in prices, more people than ever are trying to complete their applications before the end of July. Hogar Hispano needs your help to meet this challenge.
Become a part of the citizenship process by volunteering to help fill out U.S. Naturalization applications at Hogar Hispano's Citizenship Workshop. Training is provided at the workshop.
When: July 21, 2007, 9:30 am - 5:00 pm
Where: Arlington Mill Community Center, 4975 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA
Contact: Michelle Sardone, firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-534-9805 x 236
Workshops are held every six to eight weeks, so if you can't make this one, look out for the next one.