Sometimes the best way to help is just by making yourself available. At Cooke Elementary, that was certainly the case as staff reached out to its English as a Second Language (ESL) community.
Teachers at Cooke Elementary were noticing some of their students were not getting help with their homework at night. Parents would talk to the school’s staff about the need for English classes…not to mention, a way to be able to get to those classes.
Cooke’s administrative team knew that as its Hispanic population continued to grow, the school’s outreach efforts would also have to increase. Ready to help, teachers and administrators held brainstorming sessions at the school. They reached out to the PTA and two local churches and together they launched its latest program, “Empowering ESL Parents.”
The program features 16 evening classes held over an eight-week period. In class, parents receive instruction on English from teacher volunteers, working in small groups that focus on specific needs.
All the while, the children go to a nearby church were volunteers work with them on literacy and math skills.
Laura Beth Lawver, a first grade teacher at Cooke and the school’s Partners in Education coordinator, worked with Virginia Beach United Methodist Church to use one of its buses to pick up and take home participants. In addition, assistant principal Frank Gillikin, Jr. reached out to Beach Church for a place for the children to stay while their parents were in class.
“From the feedback that we have received from the participants, I can truly say that everyone involved has benefited,” Gillikin said. “The children love the time at Beach Church with Pastor Brockway.”
Gillikin says each week the program has more participants than the week before, and that the results from the program have been staggering.
“The parents don’t want to leave even though they have homework. They say the time is not long enough,” he said. “The adults are beginning to feel more comfortable engaging their own students in conversation and English has become the language during homework time.”
Most importantly, though, the program is connecting the school with the community and strengthening the relationship between parents, teachers and those just wanting to see the best for the school.
“Our program has provided an opportunity to meet our identified goals and then some.”