Menchville’s English as a Second Language Program


Menchville students and teachers (2022)

Menchville’s English as a Second Language Program is the hub for incoming immigrants, refugees, and students who speak a different language at home. The program was originally based at Denbigh High School, but expanded to Menchville 3 years ago due to a major influx in the program’s population. The program’s lead teacher, Leidimar Ramirez, and I sat down to discuss the program’s population, structure, and support for students.

Ramirez, a twenty-year veteran teacher, is in her first year as the lead teacher for the program. There are a total of 7 teachers and one instructional assistant. Christy Anderson teaches “newcomers” and math classes along with Lauren Hautz, who also teaches “newcomers” and math classes.   Hannah Park, Sarah Kleinman, and Irene Desseyn teach “collab English classes”  and algebra collab classes.   Eboney Johnson is the instructional assistant.  Dr. Davida Irving teaches the “shelter” (only ESL students) geography class and collaborates with the English classes.

Newcomers see these sanctioned teachers daily. In the Collab classes, one ESL teacher works alongside the regular classroom teachers to help ESL students learn the language. There are also ESL Support classes that are every other day. Newcomers in fast math classes have one period a day every single day. Same with the new Shelter Classes that only have English Language Learning students.

The population of ESL students is mostly Spanish-speaking,  with some students from African and Arabian countries, however, most of the students in the program are from Central America. Some have been in Newport News Public Schools since elementary school, and some came recently 1-3 years ago, and then there are “newcomers,” students who are new to the country, the most abundant. Ramirez said the population of the program is “around 200” ESL students. She said quite a few of them are “unaccompanied minors,” leaving their families and other guardians behind coming here to get jobs and make a better living. Some refugees usually come here because their countries are “not doing well.”

Eymi Pinot, class of 2023, is an English Language Learning student born in Honduras. She speaks both English and Spanish at home with her aunt and uncle.”When I first came here, I tried to speak English, and people would laugh at me. I learned something difficult, I am not going to learn English in one year. When I first moved here, I couldn’t understand what my teacher was talking about so, I always used google translate. Sometimes I didn’t know what that word meant in Spanish. [To this day] I still learn new words.”

Pinot admits that at one point  “I wanted to get out of the program and, I have enough credits but, my teacher convinced me since I could learn more English this way. I know it is a program dedicated to helping me but, it is boring. It depends but, I feel like I already know most of what I am learning. But, I am happy to say students from other countries benefit from this program.” But, as of now, Pinot explains, “I am still trying my hardest to do all my homework and classwork. My teachers: Ms. Sarah, Ms. Park, and Ms. Rameriez are always helping me, supporting me. They tell me words that make me brave.”

Ramirez concluded, “We want these students to succeed and do well in and out of the school and, a lot of these students need that support.” If anyone in the school has any questions regarding the program or how to approach students in the ESL program, you can reach out to Ms. Rameirez or the other ESL teachers.