ESL classes provide support for students new to English

Dedicated teacher Pati Cole will retire after 30 years of helping students and adults transition to a new language

Runder Rains, Staff Reporter

Pati Cole, ESL educator, was born in Korea, raised in the Panama Canal zone and later moved to the United States to attend the University of Southern California.

Cole has taught English as a second language for, “Over 30 years. I have worked with adults, elementary and my last 12 years have been highschool.”

Cole describes the difficulty that ESL students face in their daily education that their English speaking peers do not.
“ESL students do not just have to learn the content, but they are also learning the language. In addition, the kids who have been here, of course, have gotten, for example, history since first grade, where as a lot of the ESL kids have had interrupted education,” Cole said. For example, “Some kids from Africa have been torn from their own homes, and have gone to other countries into refugee camps, and others have had interrupted education just because in their own countries they have a poor education system,” Cole said.

With such challenges, Cole gives additional supports, with intent to help the ESL students overcome the hardship.

“I always give 30 minutes in each of my periods for them to work on content classes/classwork, and I try to help during that time. But also, I support the teachers in what they are doing, like the teachers are differentiating, and trying to come up with resources to help them,” Cole said.

Cole works with 35 ESL students out of 97 LEP (students who have another first language other than English) who are from over 12 counties, including the Dominican Republic, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Columbia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Haiti, Uganda, Gambia and Senegal. In regard of watching ESL kids grow and learn, Cole shares her favorite part of being their teacher.

“The most rewarding part has been seeing some of them progress. You know, some of them don’t make it because it’s so overwhelming, and it’s such a hard mountain for them to climb, but I have had other students who had a hard time learning the language, but somehow they did it,” Cole said. “And I have seen many of them graduate, some of whom I thought ‘Wow, that’s a miracle!’”

Cole shares her admiration for her students, and her pride for their accomplishments.

“I admire their tenacity. I have had several that have been very ambitious, like really, really try to work hard and do everything possible,” Cole said. “Some of them have also gotten into the National Achiever Society.”

Specifically, Maria Parada, a previous student of Cole’s for three years, has honored her with a recent winning of the Trentini Scholarship for community college bound students.

“I am especially proud of her because she came in as a English 1- ASL 1 student, which is speaking very little English. I am very, very proud of her, and she is very ambitious,” Cole said.

To help the broader population understand the difficulty ESL students encounter, Cole provides a theoretical scenario.

Cole said, “Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine yourself in China. Your family is-has to go to China, your father or mother has a new job and now you are put in a high school. And you don’t speak Chinese–you have to not only learn the content in Chinese, you have to learn the Chinese language at the same time.”