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Parents return to classroom

School reaches out to the families of students who are trying to learn English.

By JANE BOKUN
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 24, 2002


TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- Harold Medina knew there was a need.

The 34-year-old Baycrest Elementary school ESOL (English for Speakers of other Languages) resource teacher was meeting with parents to discuss students throughout the year when he noticed a recurring pattern.

"The parents kept asking me where they could take classes to speak English with their children," Medina said.

So the concerned teacher recommended his school for night classes, and he's pleased with the results.

"We have people who only speak Vietnamese, Hungarian, Korean or Haitian -- all in the same classroom," Medina said. "Sometimes I feel like I have to be a mime to teach."

The free Baycrest classes are open to anyone who needs to learn English and are funded by Hillsborough County Schools.

The Town 'N Country school is just one of many in the district who have night ESOL classes. The district provides all study materials and classes have an average of 20 students. Although Medina speaks Spanish, it is not a requirement to teach the ESOL course and many teachers who conduct classes only speak English.

"The schools are referred to us after school staff has identified a need within the community," said Eria Chester, an adult and community education administrator for the district.

The classes, which follow the school calendar, will end in May and begin again with the new school year.

"We teach the students to read and write as well as assess their skills at the end of eight weeks," Chester said. "Exit tests measure their progress."

The ESOL program has worked well, she said, because the students are highly motivated and involved.

"They want to learn," Chester said.

Baycrest Elementary, 4925 Webb Rd., classes are from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year. Students can join at any time. For more information about Baycrest Elementary ESOL classes call (813) 872-5382 or (813) 233-2400.

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