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During Back to School Night on Sept. 8, the English Language Development (ELD) program had its first meeting of the year. Teachers, parents, administrators and other community members gathered in the Kreps Conference Center to discuss this school year and the growing program. One topic in the meeting, which was led by Tristan Bodle, the ELD coordinator, was the English Language Advisory Committee (ELAC).
“The meeting was preliminary; it was partly to welcome families back to school, and give them a chance to meet me and the rest of the team,” Bodle said. “But I’m new to my role, so [some] parents haven’t met me [and] putting a face to a name to familiarize them with what we do here at Redwood to support their kids [was one goal of the meeting. Another] was to recruit people to be part of the ELAC.”
Each month, the ELAC meets to guide the ELD program, which offers academic workshops, regular classes during school, tutoring for various subjects, assistance with translation and field trips. Counseling for the program is managed by Elijio Arreguin and Candace Gulden of the Counseling Department and Wellness Center. Gulden works with about half of the 38 students, and is in her eighth year of helping with ELD.
“We’ve seen the program grow. When I first started, there was one ELD class, and that was it,” Gulden said. “Since then, we’ve added two levels of ELD classes. There’s also an academic workshop that started a couple of years ago; there was only one section and [now] we have three sections with a paraeducator.”
With students speaking Spanish, Arabic, Mongolian and Portuguese, the number of teachers in the program has also increased. For Sonia Bledsoe, whose child is in the program, the growth of the resources is a good sign.
“[Redwood has] created a very supportive and nurturing environment for the students. When kids who are not fluent in English come into a school, they can feel alone and isolated, [so] the fact that there’s a program where there are other English learners is very good for the kids,” Bledsoe said. “I also like the intense academic support being offered with tutoring … [and] around English language acquisition.”
Guided by these shared values, Bodle is looking to work with everyone in the program to maximize student benefits.
“My role is to work with the kids, the parents and the teachers to support our English language learners as much as possible in academics, but also with social-emotional issues [through] the resources here at school,” Bodle said. “When you’re new to an American high school and you don’t speak the language, you need support; [and while] I’m the point person for the program, I’m by no means the only person responsible because there’s the two counselors, and then there’s the academic workshop teachers too.”
To advise this growing program, beginning last night and continuing for the coming weeks, the ELAC is inviting people involved in the program to join the committee.
“[Having] more families involved is one of our main goals. Part of what ELAC is about is making sure that the parents are also involved in creating goals, because it really is about soliciting input from the families,” Gulden said.
For Bledsoe and other parents, it is essential all stakeholders are represented in the ELD program via the ELAC.
“It is really useful for parents who are more comfortable in English to come to the program, then to get back to others who may not have the same English skills and be able to keep them in the loop of what’s available,” Bledsoe said. “In the [ELD program], parents are also stakeholders and it’s really important to have that input.”
For those interested in the ELAC, contact Bodle via his email listed on the Redwood website. In the meantime and as the year continues, the ELD program is working to increase the accessibility to the opportunities at school.
“There’s a lot that goes into supporting [students] in a brand new space, as well as learning about how high school in the United States works,” Gulden said. “[Every] high school functions very differently, so helping students understand what [Redwood] is all about and then moving on to the college and career aspect of it [is all part of what we do].”