Learning the basics

English Learner students seek new opportunities


Photo by Nathan Buroker

English Learner student, Mickleson Lempke working hard in class while learning about how to say different countries around the world

Nathan Buroker, Staff Reporter

New to our school this year, 10 students from all over the world have come to start their challenging journey of learning a completely new set of skills including social, survival, and community.

Like every year, our school gets up to three foreign exchange students, but this year is a little different. Many of these English Learner students coming from Haiti, Afghanistan, and Lebanon have never been to the United States before, nor do they speak a lot of English. Some of these students are even coming to the states as unaccompanied minors. But in just their 3 short weeks at our school, their social skills have advanced tremendously.

“I would say their social skills have grown, they act like a family and take care of each other,” English Learner teacher Shelby Gewinner said. “They have also grown in being not as nervous in the classroom. We have come a long way, a lot of them can say new things. But I cannot plan too far ahead.”

Although this being Gewinner’s first year at Millard West, she has been teaching the English Learner program for going on four years now. In her classroom, she focuses on using a variety of hand motions to get her point across to the EL students because the material she is teaching her students is all new. When teaching, Gewinner points at her mouth and at everything around her so the EL students completely understand what she is saying.

“I have my EL students do very basic tasks, they are learning what you would be learning as a preschooler, but as a teenager in high school,” Gewinner said. “We have been doing a lot of activities involving the alphabet, basic numbers and money.”

As well as Gewinner, EL student Mickelson Lempke, is all new to Millard West. Lempke is a new English Learner student that came all the way from Haiti and is adapting well to his new school and loves most of the classes he is taking.

“I really like Millard West, I have made a lot of new friends and everybody is very nice,” Lempke said. “The only thing I don’t like is my Color and Design class because it is very boring. I like my sports class.”

As much as Gewinner’s students love their new life at Millard West. Gewinner seems to have constant challenges of teaching all new students who speak little to know English, students of all different grades, and on top of that students who all speak different languages.

“The biggest challenge I see is when students enter the program as twelfth graders,” Gewinner said. “The EL program works very closely with counselors to meet the graduation requirements for those students.  In some cases, EL students can repeat twelfth grade if they do not earn enough credits during their first year.  I try to make my program challenging enough to meet the needs of all learners so they can graduate.”

A second English Learner student, Shabnam Karwan moved to the United States from Afghanistan with many of her family members to make her first time moving a little more comforting.

“I came to this country initially with my father, my brother, and my sister,” Karwan said. “And then my cousin and nephew came.”

The English Learner program has made a huge impact on our school in the first three weeks it has been here. The program is new to our school but is only expected to grow as more and more students join the program.