LANGUAGE SKILLS: English Instruction A Priority

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Studies show ten-percent of students in US schools are still learning to speak English. But just one-percent of teachers are qualified to instruct them.

Whether it’s a doctor, firefighter, or a baseball player, most kids have an idea of what they want to be when they grow up. David Aregbe didn’t. Last year, his dream was learning how to communicate with his fellow fourth graders.

But there was one subject Aregbe did get, math. It’s a subject with its own universal language.

ELL instructors like Magdalena Mujica Voy use other universal ideas like pictures to help English learners.

She says speaking a different language isn’t the challenge. Mujica Voy says, “Even though they can speak doesn’t mean when they read that they’re comprehending.”

That takes five to seven years of working with students in small groups.

Des Moines classrooms have more students learning English every year. Since 2000 the Des Moines school District ELL population has doubled.

At 43 percent, Monroe Elementary has one of the largest ELL populations in the district. Which is why Principal Cindy Wissler made it a goal to someday have all her teachers ELL certified.

Wissler says her certified instructors use more visual and vocabulary based methods. This means ELL students like Aregbe get to spend most of the day in a classroom with their peers.

Aregbe may not have mastered English yet, but his teacher says in many ways he’s ahead of the curve. Aregbe’s teacher Lynnette Wall says, “David is a hard worker. He likes to achieve. He’s very smart in math. He’s very excelled in math.”

And he’ll need those math skills since he’s now planning on becoming an engineer. Aregbe says, “You build an aircraft and like hover boards and everything.”

He’s got a lot of work ahead of him. But considering he moved to America less than 2 years ago and reads fifth grade level books during his free time, his future is looking brighter than ever.


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