Nonprofit adds flexibility in English class offerings
Audrey Thomas describes her knowledge of French and Spanish as “basic.” But the retired IT manager knows English, and she spends her Saturday mornings at Holy Innocents Episcopal Church in Sandy Springs sharing that knowledge with non-native speakers whose first languages often span the globe. Since 2011, the Roswell resident has been part of the La Amistad English for Successful Living program that connects volunteer teach- ers with adult students at a variety of locations around the metro area.
“Knowing another lan- guage was not a requirement for teaching,” she said. “In fact, the training they give us reminds us to only speak English in the classroom. For me, there can be nothing more satisfying watching the students’ self-confidence go up over months – it doesn’t take years to develop a level of proficiency in communi- cating with others. That’s what motivates me to teach.”
The roots of the nonprofit La Amistad program go back several years, when it joined forces with a similar program in place at Holy Inno- cents. The new goal was to expand the program into neighborhoods where peo- ple were struggling with the language.
“We try to bring ESL to small communities where it’s needed but may not be avail- able,” said Johanne Jean, La Amistad’s ESL director for almost three years. “In the last two years, we have multiplied; we now offer classes at Shallowford Presbyte- rian Church and the South Cobb recreation center, and for parents of students in the Marietta City Schools – wherever ESL instruction is needed.”
Jean also tweaked last year’s schedule so most sessions now follow the public school calendar. “We try to stay as close as possible, with classes starting in Septem- ber and running in 10-week sessions through December,” she said. “Then we start again in January with another session from April through June. By going all year, a student can move from one level to the next and finish our program in just over three years.”
The program now features a variety of time slots with working adults in mind. Stu- dents can opt for two 90-min- ute evening sessions or a three-hour Saturday morn- ing course. The South Cobb location also hosts a three- hour morning class during the week.
“We tried to build in a bit of flexibility to make it easier for people to take classes,” said Jean.
The director is also explor- ing options to bring the program to locations in Gwinnett County. “We’re always looking for partners and hope to have one in place there by fall,” she said.
A 10-week course costs $30, a fee that covers books and administrative costs. “At the same time, when students invest a little, they also have more of an incentive to come to class,” said Jean.
And there’s always a need for instructors, she added.
“We provide training and support,” she said. “I’m a teacher, too, and I work with them. Many are professionals with a heart to give back and a passion to help others. And they have a great time doing it.”
Registration is now open for classes that begin Sept. 10.
Johanne Jean (right), director of the La Amistad English for Successful Living, is part of a team of instructors that offers English language classes to adults.