[Imported from the former Berwyn Library Outreach Blog]
Tonight was the first class visit to St. Leonard's ESL program. Gabriel Lara, responsible for coordinating the program, escorted me through the classes and let me sit in for a few minutes in each one. Father Tom McQuaid leads the program and teaches one of the classes. He has studied multiple languages internationally.
Their operation is impressive to me, a fellow ESL teacher. Total enrollment is around 40 students, which is divided into multiple levels: Spanish Literacy, Basic ESL Speaking, Basic ESL Literacy, Intermediate ESL and Advanced ESL.
The maximum number of students in each class level is determined mostly by space. Classes convene in the convent on 34th Street. With such small rooms, most would think at first glance that space is a limitation, but it's quite the opposite. Smaller class sizes help English language learners get the attention they need to progress through the levels in a timely way.
All of the teachers are volunteers; most working one day per week, with a minimum of 7 week terms. Classes are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 - 8 P.M., and Wednesdays are review nights. Students attend classes from September through July, with the average student receiving 12-14 weeks of instruction. The building doesn't have air conditioning, hence the summer break.
The most pertinent ways the Library can assist St. Leonard's program is through the lending of materials, especially classroom packs of textbooks, and professional development for their volunteer teachers. It's just what we had in mind! Many ideas were in the air tonight, and we look forward to working together to enhance the St. Leonard's ESL program using the American Dream Starts @ your library grant. Stay tuned for more class visits throughout the community!