Sunday, September 21, 2008

College secures funding for popular ESL program

An English as a Second Language program hosted by Northwest Community college is getting prepared to launch for the second year in a row, providing a well received opportunity for those trying to learn English to put their knowledge to work in practical ways.

The English Language Settlement Assistance Program is currently looking to complete its roster of tutors and classroom helpers, who will once again prove pivotal to the success of the program.

The program recently received funding from Settlement Assistance Branch of the Ministry of Advanced Education and will once again be able to provide for a learning environment that makes the best use of the resources available and the use of tutors, a process which can result in a learning curve that develops long after the participants leave the classroom.

The Daily News provided details of the program in Thursday's paper.

Would-be ESL teachers invited to get training
By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Pages three and five

Newcomers to Prince Rupert who are learning English as a Second Language (ELSAP) will be happy to learn that Northwest Community College has received funding for the second year in a row to offer its English Language Settlement Assistance Program.

With funds from the Settlement Assistance Branch of the Ministry of Advanced Education, tutor training, the hiring of settlement assistance workers and child minding during some of the sessions is being made possible.

Coordinator Marie Grinstrand, is inviting people interested in becoming tutors to attend a training session beginning Sept. 23 at the college.

The sessions will run Tuesdays and Thursday from 7 to 9:30 p.m. and are offered free of charge.
Some of the training includes tutors working with students in the classroom setting, something Grinstrand experimented with for the first time last year.

"From the tutor's point of view and the ESL student's point of view, I am forming a relationship. The class setting give tutors confidence and students absolutely love the fact that there are 10 other teachers in the class besides me," Grinstrand said.

A new on-line program, being implemented this year, will also make tutor training more flexible as Grinstrand said sometimes even tutors can't attend all the sessions.

Many of the sessions are group sessions. Last year, the tutors and students went to the Prince Rupert Library on Wednesday afternoons for citizenship classes.

While mothers studied in a side room and practiced writing citizenship tests, their children attended a storytime session.

"Those sessions were really popular and I'd like to schedule more of that this year," said Grinstrand.

Practical things like banking, health or obtaining a driver's licence are things one might take for granted but they can be stumbling blocks to a newcomer.

For Mariana Hülsen, who moved to Prince Rupert in April 2006, it was personal experience that inspired her to enroll in the tutor training program last January.

Hülsen emigrated to Canada 15 years ago from Argentina and was proficient in the English language when she arrived.

She started learning English at school in Grade 3, her high school had a good foreign language program and after graduation, she enrolled in a Certificate of Proficiency in English through Cambridge University.

"My English was good. I had a really big vocabulary, I knew grammar and syntax but it was the everyday things I needed," Hülsen said.

One winter, while living in Victoria, Hülsen was too embarrassed to ask someone how to catch the bus so she walked everywhere and was exhausted.

Hülsen taught ESL in Argentina for a career so when she learned about the college's tutor training program she decided to enroll.

Besides, she added, with her bus-less experience she thought she might be able to think of ways to help other immigrants that people without second language experience might not know about.
During the summer Hülsen tutored a young woman from India and said the two developed a friendship.

"We shared wedding photos, talked about food - she taught me how to make things and I shared recipes from Argentina. It goes beyond teacher and student," Hülsen said.
Grinstrand and Hülsen have been compiling kits containing materials and ideas to give tutors more support.

"This week, I picked up some bank books and cheque registers that we can practice with. We really focus on helping students cope and to learn practical things. It might even involve showing someone how to use a bank machine or what a person's going to say at a doctor's appointment."
Prince Rupert is the only place west of Prince George offering ESL classes because provincial funding has been aimed at smaller communities like Houston, Terrace and Kitimat to offer the ELSAP.

"There's a general recognition that immigrants do need more support and this program is genuinely trying to provide this support," Grinstrand said.

Locally, the program is a partnership with Northwest Community College and the Community Enrichment Society, with continued support from the Prince Rupert Library.

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