ESL offers learning and friendship

By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

Chris Gurke teaches her three second-level students. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Upon entering the front doors of Chelan Public Library at 1 p.m. on Tuesday or Thursday afternoon, people are seen climbing three flights of steps to an upper room?? the temporary home of Living Stone Church and the venue for English as?a Second Language (ESL) afternoon classes.

Tables and chairs are set up in five or six areas around the large room where a teacher and his or her students study and share their lives. You will hear conversation and laughter, and observe diligent study, sometimes heartfelt hugs.

Maria Guadalupe Rosas Cabezas, who goes by Lupe, has been attending ESL classes for about four years and is working through the third-level workbooks. ?I want to learn English so I can understand people better in places like the bank and hospital,? she said. ?And I want to be able to help my children with homework?? and understand their conversations with friends.?

Olivia Rico has also attended ESL for four years and is studying in fourth-level books. ?I want to learn to read, write and speak English better? she said. ?I can read and write, but I need more practice speaking.?

Olivia?s teacher, Karen Dobrasz, says, ?It is fun to teach Olivia and get to know her. We share about our lives and families. I believe ESL is important to our community.?

Steve Easley, Karen Dobrasz, Chris Gurke, Paul Dobrasz and Director Tom Dunbar teach the afternoon classes. (Editor’s note: Empire Press correspondent Darlene Paterson also teaches the classes.)

After 35 years as International Workers in Latin America, Tom Dunbar and his wife, Ellen, moved to Chelan, where Tom noticed there was a large Hispanic population. Surely it was no coincidence they retired in an area filled with people of a language group they had loved and worked with for many years.

Director Tom Dunbar in an ESL teaching session. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Dunbar discovered others from his church who shared a desire to minister to Latinos. They met to brainstorm ideas and decided ESL classes would meet a felt need of the Hispanic population and benefit the whole community.

A managing board was formed and members began exploring curriculum, recruiting teachers, finding a suitable venue and advertising.

Eight curriculum books were ordered. Forty people showed up at the senior center for the first class seven years ago. Classes have been going strong ever since.

This year, ESL classes meet from 1 to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the library, and from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Chelan Valley Hope. Another class meets at North Shore Bible Church in Manson on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

Between 12 and 20 attend the evening classes in Chelan. Easley and Dunbar also teach in the evening as do Krista Frahms, Vicki Carr, Shea Steenhard, Bob Myers, Dwight Keegan, Andrew?and Lindsey Southard and Kathy Eier.

In order to accommodate orchard work, ESL classes run from November through March. A training session for teachers is held prior to each year?s classes.

ESL curriculum includes a beginning series called Survival English covering three levels. Upon completion of Survival English, students begin?Book 1 of the Laubach curriculum which is made up of four levels. Students are divided into class groupings in accordance with their skill level.

Dunbar emphasizes three key words to the students?? practice, practice, practice.

Chris Gurke teaches three women studying in Book?2?of the Laubach curriculum.

?This is my fourth year teaching and I love it,? she said. ?The most important thing, besides teaching English of course, is to develop relationships with my students and help them feel connected to the community. Building friendship and trust is so important. I have had contacts outside of class too,? she added. ?For example, one of my students wanted me to come and see her baby goats last year. Part of teaching is communicating through life experiences. The devotionals shared at the end are a big part of the ministry also.?

Dunbar presents a short bilingual devotional at the end of each class. ?When I see the students nodding their head as I read a Bible verse, that is very satisfying,? he comments.

Steve Easley has been teaching every year since classes began and is part of the seven-member board who meet monthly to review, evaluate and plan.

Easley says his favorite thing about teaching is building relationships and seeing his students grow and learn.

Certificates will be given to students on March 28, the last class session this season. Dunbar says pizza may also be included.

For more information about ESL classes, contact Tom Dunbar?at tedunbar@nwi.net.