Education

Tempe Elementary School District parents who represent a variety of languages can take a free class to learn English.

The class, offered through a partnership with Rio Salado Community College, will teach parents academic English in order to describe concepts in subjects such as math and science, said Tempe Elementary Governing Board President Rochelle Wells. She said this program will help parents feel more connected to their child’s education.

“It’s the journey of discovery, watching children learn,” she said. “So, as a parent it’s very exciting to see how your children learn and watch them grow.”

Wells added the program can get parents more involved with their children’s learning, which she said is the top success factor for students.

The class has room for 25 parents, will last for 14 weeks and will cost the school district $4,200, according to the contract approved by the Tempe Elementary Governing Board. The district will use Title I money, which is federal funding given to the school in order to help disadvantaged students succeed, to pay for the class.

Rick Horvath, the district’s assistant superintendent for learning and leadership, said the class is available for any parent in the district, regardless of what language they speak.

“It’s designed for people who are learning English. Not just Spanish to English, but any language,” he said.

The class is going to be taught by instructors through a program by Rio Salado Community College called English Language Acquisition for Adults. Kate Packer, program director of continuing education for Rio Salado, said the program started approximately 14 years ago and has partnered with multiple businesses and school districts around the valley in order to teach adults English.

Packer said that even though the students may each speak different languages, the class is taught using English as a target.

“I don’t think it’s a fair expectation of anyone to speak all the languages that students represent in the classroom,” she said. “And it’s really not necessary because we have a lot of techniques and methods that we use to teach the target language, even if people do not speak a word of … English.”

Packer said some techniques include full-immersion, a technique where the class is taught almost entirely in English so that students have to use the language more. She said teachers can also use a student’s native language in order to better explain English concepts.

• Laura Davis is a junior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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