Non­profit adds flex­i­bil­ity in English class of­fer­ings

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - COUNTY BY COUNTY - In­for­ma­tion about La Amis­tad ESL cour­ses is on­line at laamis­tad­inc.org.

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.

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