tim-coray-2-1by Tim Coray
Granger Elementary Community School Director

English Skills Learning Center is a partner in many of our Community Schools. This valuable resource provides English language lessons to community members and parents of our students, many of whom are recently immigrated or resettled individuals. Taught by trained volunteers, these classes aim to empower parents of school-aged children with the conversational skills and confidence to navigate the American school system. Granger Elementary, where I work as the Community School Director, currently offers beginning and intermediate English classes, two evenings per week.

United Way of Salt Lake encourages its employees to regularly volunteer with our partnering organizations and in our Community Schools. This spirit of volunteerism not only allows us to have a positive impact in our community, it also increases our knowledge of the agencies and their contribution to the work of Collective Impact. I volunteer my time by teaching one of the ESLC Empowering Parents classes at Granger Elementary. Prior to joining Unites Way of Salt Lake, I taught middle and high school English. With my transition from the classroom, I was not entirely ready to give up the rewarding challenge of working with students directly. Becoming a volunteer teacher of emerging English speakers has definitely satisfied that desire–and hopefully equipped parents with valuable skills. Also, it has allowed me to get to know a variety of the families I serve in the school and spread the good word of all our Community School offerings.

class graduation
One of ESLC’s Graduating Classes

This week, KSL Radio host, Nkoyo Iyamba, featured the work of the English Skills Learning Center on her weekly program entitled Cultural Connections. The show featured a panel consisting of ESLC’s Empowering Parents Coordinator Elizabeth McAninch, Glendale Community Center’s Elizabeth Montoya, and myself. Among a variety of topics, we discussed how the classes can promote literacy in students’ households. One of the best examples of this, we discussed, was how children’s books are integrated into classes’ curriculum.

My class recently used the children’s bedtime book entitled “Hush!” to discuss the importance of parents reading to their children regularly. Each adult ESL student was given a copy of the book to keep and the opportunity to practice reading it aloud. Then, they took it home and read it with their children. The next week, all of the students were eager to report about the success they had engaging their children. One mother joked that while she read her child’s eyes were firmly fixed on her instead of the book. Despite the amusing illustrations, the daughter was more interested that her mom was speaking to her in English. A first for the family, the proud mother reported.  

To accommodate the varied needs of our families and because of increasing popularity, we are excited to be adding third Empowering Parents English class. Offered twice a week in the morning, this new class will be perfect for parents who drop their children off for school. Parents’ requests for this expansion as well as anecdotes from current classes are evidence that the work is providing a beneficial experience for families.

Photo c/o ESLCenter.org
Photo c/o ESLCenter.org

To learn more about volunteering with English Skills Learning Center, visit their website or contact United Way of Salt Lake Volunteer Center at volunteercenter@uw.org!