By Ian Faulkner, Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 —
The students in the English as a Second Language (ESL) class at West Stanly High School (WSHS) gave thanks over tortilla chips, salsa and refried beans right before the Thanksgiving holiday break.
Titled Cultural Day, the ESL students learned about the history and the various traditions that make up Thanksgiving, while simultaneously learning about the melange of cultural backgrounds of their fellow classmates.
“We’ve been studying cultures and cultural celebrations,” said Elsa Armijos, ESL instructor at WSHS.
“Thanksgiving is a uniquely American celebration, and with the different cultural backgrounds in this class, I wanted them to be aware of American culture and their own diverse backgrounds.
“This is a fusion of the different meanings that the holidays represent, a fusion of cultures. We want them to be successful in this country. We’re all thankful for the opportunities that we have here in this country.”
Armijos explained that ESL students take the class because they speak English as their second language, adding that the majority of the ESL students at WSHS spoke Hmong or Spanish.
“This is a heterogeneous group. We have all ages. They go to regular classes and come here in their fourth block.
“In this class we develop an awareness of cultural heritages, languages, food and family values,” Armijos said.
“Primarily we develop English communication skills through reading, writing and speaking.
“The majority of my students come in knowing some English, but we build them up to a higher level.
“Also, we facilitate learning in content areas if they’re having problems, such as science, social studies or math.”
Armijos said that ESL classes provide a sheltered, content-based environment, providing more input and breaking lessons down into more manageable parts for students.
“This is a good program. It really helps people improve their grades. She [Armijos] helps out a lot, helps us as much as she can,” said Brian Ramirez, a freshman who is on the wrestling and varsity football teams at WSHS.
While the students were thankful for their break, Armijos was thankful that they didn’t decide to have a full-on Thanksgiving meal.
“Thanksgiving dinner would have been a real challenge. I’m just glad they decided to order out.”