Getting a head start with community-based English tutoring programs

Meet Felipe

One first grader is empowering his family and encouraging them to achieve excellence in learning English.

Felipe is an intermediate level English language learner. He is a happy boy and a hard worker. He is the first in his family to begin school already knowing his letters and sounds, colors and numbers. His older sister and brother were encouraged to work with him at home to get him ready for Kindergarten. His siblings have been extremely conscientious and have put a great deal of effort into helping him remain motivated. Felipe's parents always want the best for their children and look for opportunities for them to become educated. Because of his parents' and siblings' encouragement and help, he has continued to keep an "I can do it" attitude about his education.

Felipe's mom started attending adult ESL classes this past summer after Felipe brought home a flyer for her. Felipe and his siblings wanted their mom to have the opportunity to go to school. That was just the beginning … Felipe also encouraged his "tío" (uncle) and "primo" (cousin) to come to English class and learn with his mom. He thinks it is good to be bilingual and promised to help them with their homework if they came to class every week. He encourages them to learn not only English but also how to use a computer. He is proud that his family is at school learning together.

The California Department of Education CBET (community-based English tutoring) program offers these adult classes to parents or other members of the community who pledge to provide personal English language tutoring to English learners.

While the parents are attending English classes in one room, the children receive childcare in a room next door. There, they have the opportunity to work on homework, access learning activities on the computers, do a variety of learning activities and games, have a snack, and listen to a story. The program provides weekly activities for parents and children to practice at home together. Three credentialed teachers and two aides teach the adults and the children. There are also middle school and high school students coming to work with the children on a volunteer basis.

Felipe helps his family with learning at home by working with them on vocabulary, by practicing asking questions and getting correct responses, and by sharing his own schoolwork with them. He also gives them little quizzes on what they learned each week. Every week he checks with the adult ESL teacher to see if his "tío" and his "primo" are doing their work and are still getting an A+ grade.

Even at the young age of six years old, Felipe values learning and going to school to get an education. He knows reading, math, and writing are important skills that open up the world to you — a world that does not necessarily open itself to Felipe easily. He was born with an eye problem that has affected his vision since birth, so he needs to wear glasses. Felipe has also grown up in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence. Often, his family faces economic obstacles. Recently, his mother "managed" to get him new glasses to replace a broken pair.

Felipe's story is a real story "from the heart." He is achieving excellence through his love of his family and his love of learning. His positive attitude and his abundant enthusiasm for life and school are inspiring to all of us.

Thank you to Joanne Orlando for her nomination of Felipe and contributions to this story.

Do you know an outstanding ELL teacher? Paraprofessional? Student?

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