District provides free adult English classes
The Carlynton School District has partnered with Literacy Pittsburgh to provide free adult English classes to the parents/guardians of immigrant and refugee children of the district. Classes are held at Carnegie Elementary School with four, 90-minute sessions per week on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Instruction is designed for beginning learners to the more advanced learner. Childcare is provided by high school student volunteers who are members of the National Honor Society.
David Temple, a 25-year veteran ESL (English as a second language) teacher from Brooklyn, NY, is leading the interactive English lessons. He holds a master’s degree in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) and is fluent in Mandarin. Temple lived in Taiwan for 10 years following retirement and now resides in Beaver County to be closer to family.
In its first week, nearly two-dozen adults participated in the free classes by carefully taking notes, asking questions and competing in mini challenges by writing sentences on the chalkboard. The adult students are a true melting pot, immigrating from Columbia, Ecuador, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Syria, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.
Ahmad Alahamad, a Syrian refugee, moved to Carnegie in 2016. He and his wife have three children; two are enrolled in Carnegie Elementary. “I’ve picked up the language in the last five years, but still have trouble writing out words and sentences,” he shared. Alahamad said he hopes the class will teach him to spell the English words he has learned, along with proper verb tenses and punctuation.
Literacy Pittsburgh provides the adults in the class with a free textbook and workbook. The colorful pages offer illustrations, giving individuals the opportunity to analyze the visuals, infer a meaning and create written language structures within the pages of the workbook to support what they are seeing in the images. “Writing, speaking and repetition is key to learning and retaining,” said Temple.
Alahamad made sure he would remember the correct spelling of the words he learned at a session by typing them into his cell phone. “This way I can review the words and practice putting them into sentences,” he said.
Second grade teacher Donald Alexander was instrumental in bringing the Literacy Pittsburgh program to Carnegie Elementary School. Noticing a desire among colleagues to create a more welcoming environment for the school’s growing population of non-English-speaking parents, he reached out to Gisele Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s second lady, and she connected him to Literacy Pittsburgh. Fetterman, who has partnered with Carnegie Elementary to provide support to immigrants, refugees, low-income families and the school’s Chill Room, visits the school often to collaborate with teachers and administration.