Meramec Valley R-III teachers Jimi Brooks and Laura Zwilling, who administer the district English Language Learners (ELL) program, were awarded a grant from the Missouri Retired Teachers Association earlier this year. The grant, written for their MVR-III Amigos program concept, was designed as a way to help unite the ELL community served by the district. This community consists of 32 students from eight different countries (and the US territory of Puerto Rico), representing speakers of five different languages. It is a two-fold project: one side deals with the ELL students, and the other addresses their parents.
The first side of this program has begun with high school ELL students visiting Truman Elementary one Thursday each month. These students meet with their elementary counterparts to do an activity, teach a lesson, or play a game relating to the acquisition of English. Last week, participants learned about Halloween and Day of the Dead. High school students read a story in both English and Spanish to the elementary students and then helped them decorate skull cookies often used in cultural celebrations. The long-term goal of the project is to develop a mentoring-style program between these high school ELL students and those at the elementary and middle schools.
The second element is to engage the parents and guardians of all ELL students. Many of the families with ELL students are not aware of everything the district has to offer due to the language barrier. To improve on this, the ELL program will host two evening family meetings this year. Facilitators will go over academics, policies, positions in the buildings (such as who are the principals, counselors, etc.), and available programs. Translators will be on hand to give parents an opportunity to ask questions that they may not have been able to ask before. An additional hope is that ELL parents can share their resources with one another as well.
The first ELL parents’ meeting will be held in the PHS cafeteria on November 29 at 7 p.m. For questions, please contact Jimi Brooks at 636-271-1434 (ext. 3540). #MVNation