A Multilingual Menchville

Welcoming the new ESL Program

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A Multilingual Menchville

Menchville welcomes new ESL students to the Monarch family

Menchville welcomes new ESL students to the Monarch family

Laura Madler

Menchville welcomes new ESL students to the Monarch family

Laura Madler

Laura Madler

Menchville welcomes new ESL students to the Monarch family

Laura Madler, Editor-in-Chief

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Bodies and backpacks bustle through the crowd and faces go by in a blur, all accompanied by the buzzing din of different conversations. The Menchville hallways at class change are a loud and hectic scene, and anyone who has spent time in the school recognizes that distinctive sound of a hundred different voices mixing and reverberating off the walls. This year, the chatter sounds a little different- a hundred unique voices mixing, but not just in English.

ESL stands for “English as a Second Language,” which is a program for students who have grown up speaking a language other than English at home. Previously, the only high schools in the Newport News district with ESL programs were Warwick and Denbigh. An increase in the number of students in the program this year meant that another school needed to start an ESL department. Menchville took on the opportunity, converting classes on the World Language Hall to ESL classrooms and welcoming over 90 new Monarchs to our ranks.

“Mr. Surry was really open to having us come and the staff has just been amazing and very welcoming,” commented ESL lead teacher Kymani Pearson-Brown. “We’re happy to be here.”

The goal of the ESL program is to prepare Learners for using English in the academic world. Using language effectively has much to do with exposure and experience; naturally, students who grow up in English-speaking versus non-English-speaking households have a different background with the language and its usage. ESL teachers aim to bridge this divide,  using classroom time to build literacy skills.

“Language develops first primarily socially, so these students may be able to interact with their peers, and they may sound like they’re proficient in English, but they’re lacking a lot of the background that students who grow up learning English are exposed to throughout their lives,” explained Pearson-Brown. “We focus a lot on reading and writing. If you’re going to succeed in academics, you need to have a strong foundation in literacy.”

Currently, Menchville’s English learners represent a wide variety of languages, including Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Pashto, and Swahili. However, just because students are in the ESL program and speak another language does not mean that they cannot speak or understand English. “That’s a common misconception,” commented Pearson-Brown, “in fact, they’re already bilingual, so that kind of gives them an edge in general.”

When asked about thoughts on the coming school year, Pearson-Brown commented on the welcoming atmosphere around Menchville.

“I hope that students and staff will continue being welcoming to our students as this program inevitably grows. We’re excited to be here, and so far things are going well.” She continued, “the kids when they first arrive are super nervous, but now I’m starting to see smiles the more they get to know the staff and school.”


Of course, Menchville isn’t just welcoming new ESL students- meet some of the new ESL teachers:

Staff Photographer

Kymani Pearson-Brown

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Virginia, and I actually grew up in the Hampton Roads area.

What languages can you speak?

I speak English and Spanish, but I’d love to learn more.

Why did you become an ESL teacher?

I’ve always had a love for languages, and Spanish was my favorite class in high school, so I wanted to do something in my career that connected with languages. I got into an education position in Fairfax, VA, and I think what finally made me decide that ESL was what I wanted to do was being able to make a connection with a kindergarten student who was brand new to the country. She was sitting alone in her class by herself, and the teacher just wondered, ‘Why isn’t she saying anything? Why isn’t she making friends?’ When I had a conversation with her in Spanish her eyes just lit up. Making that connection with the students is what has made me excited and focused on wanting to work with English learners.

What do you want students to know about you?

I want them to know that they can always come to me, even if they’re no longer in my class anymore. I’m always here to help them in any way, whether it’s personal or academic, I’ll always find a way to help them.

Staff Photographer

Maria Brewer

Where are you from?

I’m from Mexico.

What languages can you speak?

I speak two languages – I’m fluent in Spanish and English, and I understand some French, as well.

Why did you become an ESL teacher?

While in grad school, planning to become a science teacher, I came across an opportunity to teach science to ELLs, and I was thrilled that I could combine two of my favorite subjects: English and science. So, I added on an endorsement so that I could keep sharing my love of science to ELLs.

What do you want students to know about you?

I love meeting new people. I have lived in seven different states, so I’m no stranger to being the new person.

Staff Photographer

Irene Desseyn

Where are you from?

I am a second-generation American, raised in Pittsburgh, PA. My grandparents were born in Greece.

What languages can you speak?

I learned Greek first, then English, then French. I speak, read and write Greek at a basic level. I read and write French more adequately, and can converse in it, but I need more practice!

Why did you become an ESL teacher?

I grew up speaking Greek with my grandparents, uncles and aunts, and great aunts and uncles. My maternal grandmother taught herself to read and write in English and was the unofficial “case worker” for many Greek people in her neighborhood. She accompanied them for business meetings and doctor’s appointments so that she could translate. Teaching English as a Second Language is in my blood.

What do you want students to know about you?

Spending time with my family, especially my children and grandchildren, brings me the greatest joy. Second, third, and fourth to that are: reading, playing music (drums), and watching sports such as soccer, NFL football, and baseball.

Staff Photographer

Deborah Weaver

Where are you from?

I am from southern Indiana near Cincinnati, Ohio. I call Buffalo, NY home since that is where I have lived for so long. Tiring of such long and brutal winters, I chose to return to Virginia to teach, since I had spent a short time a few years ago teaching English at Woodside High School. I liked the area and wanted to come back. I don’t think I will see 300 inches of snow in my yard this winter like I did in NY.

Why did you become an ESL teacher?

Language and its acquisition have always been interesting to me, and I have been teaching in high schools and colleges for many, many years. I cannot imagine doing anything else as my life’s work.

What do you want students to know about you?

I guess my students should know that I have a very strong dislike for laziness, meanness, and rudeness. If they want to get along with me, they need not be any of those things. I have three kids, all grown, and I also have five grandkids- and one on the way. I love my big, slobbery mastiffs, Sicily and her brother Seamus. I also love to cook, garden, read, and attend auctions. The beach is my happy place.

 

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