ESL offers bridge to success; international students learn language skills

By MARIA VALLES, Staff Reporter |

The ESL program at Amarillo College helps students improve their English language skills to become eligible to enter job training programs and academic programs at AC, Matthew Piech, an ESL instructor, said.

“The ESL classes helped me a lot,” Lual Majok, an ESL student, said.  “I came from Africa not knowing English and now my kid told me my English has improved. I say that is great and am thankful I am here.”

Students who take these classes come from all over the place, said Jessica Ishimoto, an administrative specialist and adult education success coach. 

“Students come to improve their English and to improve their lives,” she said.

“I went to war and because of war I dropped out of school in Africa so I came here with my kid and saw an opportunity to come back to school so that I can finish my dream,” Majok said.

The ESL classes offer four levels, high beginning, low intermediate, high intermediate and advanced, Piech said. 

“When students start with us, they take an entry exam. We use a standardized test called Test of Adult Basic Education,” he said. This determines the level students get placed in, he said.

Some students said they think the levels are hard. “The levels are a bit harder, but it is good because something easy is not good and when you overcome it you will be satisfied,” Majok said.

Instructors have students take exams to evaluate their progress, said Piech. “We do in-class exams when we complete units to see if they learned to master the content we’ve been addressing. We have them do a few assignments both oral as well as written through class observation of the student and we also progress test them after every 50 hours of instruction,” he said.

Majok said that one cultural challenge he faces at AC is speaking English. “English for me as a second language is difficult for me because the way I was taught in Africa is different than here,” he said.

Some staff members encourage students to take ESL classes, said Ishimoto. “We have students who have degrees in their countries; we have doctors, lawyers coming here and starting all over can be difficult and a loss of potential. Learning English enables them to be able to communicate better and it opens up doors for them that is why I recommend they come and learn English,” Ishimoto said.

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