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English language classes open doors for immigrants 

October 17, 2022

Canal Alliance ESL staff pose at the staff retreat.
Kate Rider, Adult Education Supervisor; Bree Doan, Adult Education Senior Manager; Fabiola Wilcox; Adult Education Navigator

When adults improve their communication and technology skills, their education and career opportunities expand, which not only benefits them, but also their families and their community. Recently, students marked the successful completion of our English as a Second Language (ESL) courses at a virtual graduation ceremony. “I want to thank my teachers for helping me learn English and use computers,” one student shared. “I can now do so much because I took this class.”

Our Adult Education Program operates on a trimester schedule and offers six levels of ESL classes, which include digital literacy instruction and Citizenship classes. “We provide a program that functions like a whole school,” notes Bree Doan, Adult Education Senior Manager, “where 300 students who work with a team of teachers, and volunteer classroom aides and tutors.” 
ESL classes are all remote, a pandemic-related change that has allowed for a greater percentage of women to access the classes. Students are placed in courses, ESL100 to ESL 500, based on the results of a language assessment, and provided with computer coaching and tech support throughout the courses, in cooperation with Technology4Life.  

The graduation ceremony began with a congratulations to all students; teacher and students in each level were then given an opportunity to share their work and experiences. Students across classes shared dream boards, projects they created in class, or presented about events in U.S. history.  

Several students reflected on the impact of the digital literacy component of the program. Marisa, an ESL 400 student, said that she has had trouble with technology due to her lack of English skills, but with the help of the course, she can now navigate computers and the web. 

Luz Maria, an ESL 500 student and working mother, said that remote instruction made the ESL opportunity possible. “It is convenient to have this class in our home. You know a lot of us have to work, cook and take a shower. If I had to go to school in person, it would’ve been hard. I really want to do the class again because every night I learned something different.” 

Some students are dually enrolled in ESL and Citizenship classes. Citizenship classes support people to prepare for the U.S. Citizenship exam or Naturalization test.

“I want to thank God for helping me to become a citizen,” shared Marjorie. “And I want to thank Canal Alliance because it’s a beautiful nonprofit. My citizenship interview lasted 25 minutes and I was able to complete my test thanks to this class.” 

Personalized case management and strong teacher-student relationships are essential; the classes clearly foster a sense of community among the participants. “I had the privilege of being with these students across several course levels,” said teacher Amy Carlson.  “I am sad that they are moving but excited about their growth.” 

Sonya, the teacher for the English 500 class, also noted that she had the great pleasure of teaching students over several courses.  She works with students at a high level and some students retake the class to reinforce their learning.  

Reflecting on the impact of the Adult Education program, Bree Doan explains that students benefit from classes, materials such as Chromebooks and books, personalized case management, and referrals to other Canal Alliance services. “Our program is unique in the individualized support we provide each student.” 

Our Adult Education team leads English, Digital Literacy, and Citizenship Classes

Contribute your time and skills 

Are you interested in helping immigrants gain communication skills to improve their interactions at work, with their child’s school, and in daily life? As a Volunteer ESL Teacher’s Aide, you will assist in an online ESL class one night per week for 13 weeks. You will have the opportunity to practice language instruction and interact with our students in an online classroom setting.  

Apply today for the Spring trimester starting January 23, 2023. As a Volunteer ESL Conversation Partner, you will meet with a student via Zoom for one hour/week, providing the opportunity to practice speaking and listening skills. Learn more and apply today!  Volunteer – Canal Alliance 

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