Maria Villa, right, studies with a friend at Vickery Meadow Learning Center. (Photo by Lauren Law)

Maria Villa, right, studies with a friend at Vickery Meadow Learning Center. (Photo by Lauren Law)

Talk the Talk

My friend Lyn DuBois recently asked me if I’d be interested in teaching English as a second language (ESL) at Vickery Meadow Learning Center. I was inspired by her wonderful experience teaching.

“Getting to know immigrants from all over the world, who are so hard working and earnest, has been truly inspiring,” she says.

She added that the course material is accessible and easy to follow with room for innovation from each teacher. The students have a textbook and workbook, and there’s a separate manual for the teachers to assist with lesson planning and preparation.

After attending an information session, I signed up to teach a 12-week course at the VMLC West Dallas campus, where students are primarily from Mexico, Central America, South America and Cuba. I learned from Catlin Hale, adult program manager at VMLC, that the ESL program teaches workforce and family literacy to adults and young children.

“We want to help students who come to us gain English and literacy skills to help them achieve the goals they set for themselves,” she says.

The students who attend the program have a wide range of backgrounds — some are citizens, some are refugees and others are working toward citizenship. According to Leala Rosen, VMLC volunteer outreach manager, students come from 43 different countries. At the Vickery Meadow campus, 30 percent of students are from Southeast Asia (mostly from Bhutan, Burma and Nepal); 50 percent are from Mexico, Central and South America, and the remaining 20 percent of students are from the Middle East and Northern Africa (Pakistan, Iran, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo and the Ivory Coast). “We have seen increased diversity at our East Dallas campus this semester, with new students enrolled who have come to the US from Cameroon, Cambodia and China,” says Rosen.

At VMLC, 325 dedicated volunteers teach each week at three different campuses. The West Dallas location, where I volunteered, relies on the help of 70 weekly volunteers. “Our volunteers teach one, two-hour class per week for a 12-week semester commitment. We provide all the materials and training, a detailed week-by-week curriculum, a co-teacher and, no previous teaching experience or foreign language is required,” Rosen says.

From the first day I felt a sense of camaraderie with my students, who were all Spanish speaking women. One of my most talkative students, Aurora Batista de Caridad, impressed me with her command of the English language after only a few months of living here. “I moved to the United States from Cuba last year and knew to live here I needed to learn English for work and for daily life,” “It has already helped me so much to have a place to learn and make friends. I love my classmates and my teachers and I’ve already gotten a better job.”

Simply hearing their success stories makes it so worthwhile to volunteer. Contact Leala Rosen at volunteer@vmlc.org or 214.265.5057, ext. 110, to get involved.


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