SPEAK

ESL at Kirkbride Elementary School

by Ray Withers March 17, 2020

On March 3, we presented a gift of chocolates to the adult ESL student who won the contest to name the onsite ESL program. Submissions were numerous and included the following words: speak, learn English, class, program, South Philly, and community. For now, though, I need to back up.

Tenth’s Mercy Commission includes the South Philadelphia Immigrant Committee, which oversees an ESL outreach program to the adult community from the Kirkbride School, 1501 S. 7th Street. Most of its students receive English language services. A while back, one of its teachers, Yoon Park, wife of Mercy Ministries assistant, Joe Park, invited IO to offer an ESL program to the parents of the students.  

Parents from this mixed community of Mexican, Central American, and Vietnamese immigrants have a heartfelt incentive to learn English. They want to be a part of their children’s education, and learning English is essential. The program takes place on Tuesdays, from 3:15 to 5:00. Volunteer teachers from Christ Church and Tenth lead the adult ESL program and the concurrent children’s homework program. Both programs are necessary for this outreach.

We take our program seriously. Launching in February 2019, all ten of our volunteers taught from the online program, ESL Library. This past fall, we purchased two levels of the curriculum, Side by Side (Pearson) and we look forward to providing another published resource for the pre-beginner adults by September 2020. The adults are avid learners; they converse with their teachers and one another (a strategic ESL practice), as well as do their homework. Weekly lessons are characterized by many smiles and much laughter.

We teachers are drawn to this outreach for a variety of reasons. When I served at City Center Academy (CCA), I was intrigued by the international students from the Curtis Institute who attended our English and history classes. Working with their hand-held dictionary devices and a language that was not their first, many performed exceptionally well in their CCA classes. As a result, I returned to classes and added ESL to my Pennsylvania teaching certificate. Through the years of teaching ESL to internationals, the Lord gave me a heart for immigrant children and adults who have come so far and have given up so much.

The Kirkbride School setting is an outreach provision for us. However, because we are in a public-school setting during school hours, we are not permitted to include the Bible. Yet, other outreach efforts have promoted our adults and their families attending events at Tenth: a Cinco de Mayo celebration, Internationals Outreach Christmas dinner, and the memorial service for Paul Pisani—who was a fall 2020 volunteer teacher at Kirkbride. So we’re building friendships as we sort through ways to share our ultimate hope in the Lord with our adults.

I should share that Reyna is the adult who won the naming contest. And her submission (tweaked by us judges) was South Philly English at Kirkbride, SPEAK. 

© 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Ray Withers. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org