EAST CHICAGO | Sisters Esthela Quiroga and Petrita DeLeon knocks down obstacles in the community by teaching English as a second language classes under the auspices of the International Community Alliance.
The classes are taught from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at East Chicago Central High school, 1100 W. Columbus Drive.
The women devote two hours three days each week to enhance English skills and help students fulfill the basics of the English language. The students come mainly from East Chicago, but a few travel in from South Chicago. Ages vary from young adults to senior citizens.
No matter their background, the obstacle of speaking no English is common among them.
A placement test is given before registration to ensure students are placed in the class that best meets their needs. The 10-week courses help students in reading, writing, and speaking English. Classes are free of charge and babysitting is available for children 3 and older.
The intermediate level currently has eight students. DeLeon warms up her class by writing a sentence on the board that states the date, location, weather and a spot for their name. The students recite in English while the teacher and other students help. They also prepare two sentences stating what they did that day.
“In intermediate they are more willing to speak, even though they feel embarrassed, I encourage them to speak so everyone else can learn from them,” she said.
Students come prepared with notebooks, pencils and grammar books provided by the organization.
While the majority of the students are Latinos, she said the classes are for anyone who wants to practice the English language. A former teacher at East Chicago Central High school, DeLeon said, “I enjoy teaching and it is very rewarding to know that you are able to help.”
Quiroga has been teaching the classes for three years, and admits her beginning students are less enthusiastic about speaking English. The basic level focuses on the alphabet, numbers, colors and months.
Quiroga prints out her own worksheets for her class of 25 to work on while she helps individuals one-on-one.
“I teach the way I would have wanted to be taught. I appreciate them for coming and wanting to learn all that they can. I give them homework to work on and have prepared for the next day," Quiroga said.
"They feel embarrassed to speak up in front of everyone, but I assure them that nobody here will make fun of the way they speak”, she added.
Call the International Community Alliance, 4506 Tod Ave., at (219) 397-7465.