by Gloria Holmstead
6th Grade Teacher, Guest Blogger

I teach a class to all the sixth grade students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary who are learning English as a Second Language. They come from a variety of countries; Somalia, Sudan, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Thailand, and Congo. They speak languages of Sudanese, Swahili, Spanish, Arabic, Thai, and Nepalese. While they bring a wealth of interesting backgrounds and culture into our class, they also bring the differences of their languages. And those differences are what make teaching English and learning English a challenge.

It was fascinating to watch the volunteers, who were from Rocky Mountain Power and participating in United Way of Salt Lake’s Day of Caring, come with their backgrounds and experiences to work with my students in getting to know them and helping them learning our English language. Through their conversations, many volunteers found that they had several things in common with 6th grade ESL students. For example, many of the students enjoy playing soccer, and several of the volunteers enjoyed playing soccer. They shared their family names, and ages, and things they liked to do and eat.

The volunteers were enthusiastic, patient, and helpful and all were able to work either individually or with two students. The one-on-one or one-on-two collaboration was something I can never achieve in my classroom with one teacher and 17 students with a variety of languages and differences in time spent in America. Some students have been here for 3 years and some just arrived in August.

The students benefited greatly from the hard work of the Day of Caring volunteers. They laughed with the students, listened to them, helped them write English words correctly, and helped them pronounce the words appropriately.

The students loved working closely with the volunteers who made them feel special and important.

Thank you United Way of Salt Lake and Rocky Mountain Power! You are welcome anytime in our classroom.