Demand grows for free adult English classes in Wilson County - WSMV News 4

Demand grows for free adult English classes in Wilson County

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Brandon Hernandez is in seventh grade at West Wilson Middle School. His mother Esther Sotelo works there too. Brandon speaks mostly English. His mom speaks mostly Spanish. It is a barrier that's proven to be a challenge.

"It's not easy communicating with the teacher," Sotelo said.

Brandon and his mother have been able to take English language classes for free, thanks to a special program in Wilson County Schools.

"I had struggles with some of my grades back then, and I asked them some of the questions in my homework, and they couldn't really understand me," Brandon said. "So, this really helped them help me out.”

"I can ask the teacher how is his class, and it's more easy for me because they explain what happened with him in the class or when he had trouble with something and he doesn't do very well," Sotelo said.

Lillie Romero is a certified English as a Second Language teacher in Wilson County. She teaches students like Brandon during the day, and adults like his mother at night.

Romero sees firsthand how the classes help break down nervousness about getting involved.

"I think sometimes parents are leery to come to parent-teacher conferences if they feel like they cannot communicate with the teachers, and so being able to come to the free classes and building up their confidence," Romero told News 4. "They're not as leery to come to speak, to talk to the teachers, so that they can be more involved in their student's education.”

Wilson County Schools officials say they've nearly doubled the number of English Language Learner teachers over the last five years because so many non-English speakers have been moving into the county. The school district was able to start the free classes because of a federal immigration grant totaling about $15,000.

Administrators say they need it, and parents ask for the classes. The district's non-English speaking population has grown to about 650 students this year, which is nearly 3.5 percent of the current student population. This year, when the district received less federal funding, they used other grant money to meet the demand for the classes.

"We know that research shows that children whose parents are involved are more successful in school," said Julie Harrison, Federal Programs Supervisor for Wilson County Schools. "So, we really wanted to break down the barrier for these parents who aren't English speakers so that they could access the schools and be involved with their children just like the English-speaking parents could.”

For Sotelo and her son, it has opened doors for new opportunities.

"I feel very good because I try, and every day I study and understand much better," Sotelo told News 4.

Brandon said he hopes the program continues.

Free English classes in Wilson County will begin Tuesday and continue for the remainder of the school year.

Classes will be held once a week at West Wilson Middle School in Mt. Juliet from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., and at Carroll Oakland Elementary in Lebanon from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Click here to print registration forms.

Only a few other districts sponsor this kind of program, including Metro Schools. Maury County Schools has offered classes for parents at one school last year, but it is not a district-wide effort. Others like Rutherford County have classes through the Adult Education Center.

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