Serving the Community

Grant helps Lee’s English Language Center

Special to the Banner
Posted 3/21/15

Lee University’s English Language Center has been able to have a bigger impact on the community than ever before, due to a grant received from the Athens Federal Foundation in fall 2014.

The …

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Serving the Community

Grant helps Lee’s English Language Center


Lee University’s English Language Center has been able to have a bigger impact on the community than ever before, due to a grant received from the Athens Federal Foundation in fall 2014.

The English Language Center serves as an integral part of the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages program in Lee’s Language and Literature Department, with the goal of meeting the English language needs of individuals from the greater Cleveland community while providing Lee University students with hands-on teaching experience.

Dr. Christopher Blake serves as the director of the center. Student volunteers from the TESOL program work alongside Blake to provide language services.

Since the English Language Center was established in fall 2011, more than 150 adults and children have been able to learn essential English skills.

The adult ESL class currently meets every semester on Thursday evenings, with a weeklong language camp program for children in the summer. There is also a class for the children of the Thursday night ESL students.

All services are provided free of charge.

“The English Language Center is the highlight of my week. Our students are so sweet and eager to learn,” said Jessica Shrable, one of the student ESL teachers this semester.

“This experience is helping to prepare me for my future career and fulfill my life calling.”

The Thursday evening ESL courses have continued this semester, with the highest attendance the program has seen to date. Lee students work with Blake to prepare lesson plans that pair reading, writing, and speaking skills with hands-on activities.

Starting in fall 2014, the program’s growth made it possible to have three levels of classes: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. This allows for more personalized, efficient learning.

“I like the experience of seeing college students taking their free time to give their knowledge to people in need of it,” said Yessica Rodriguez, a student in the advanced class. “They are always happy, and very respectful, even when they’re correcting you.”

The grant money has sponsored, in addition to other things, a new “Parents for English” course on site at Blythe-Bower Elementary School. This class is taught by Cathy Broersma, assisted by Lee TESOL majors Sally Justice and Abby Hassler.

“I have found this ‘Parents for English’ course to be a perfect fit for me, because I love the Lee connection and the involvement with the international community in Cleveland,” said Broersma. “There is definitely a need to teach adult English language learners here, and what better way than with Lee TESOL students? Our language learners are highly motivated to learn English, so they make our work enjoyable.”

Currently there are eight mothers enrolled in the course.

According to Broersma, there has been much positive feedback from Blythe-Bower staff and from the “Parents for English” students.

“The teachers and administration of Blythe-Bower are excited that we are offering these classes for parents because they recognize the need to help language learners understand what is happening at school and to enable them to communicate more freely about their children's needs,” said Broersma.

Classes on the school property provide opportunities for the mothers to see and hear what happens during the school day for their children.

"This class has been an amazing opportunity to teach English to a fantastic group of people. It truly is a blessing to work with Cathy and Sally and to teach and get to know my students each class period,” said Hassler.

“I have taught a couple of adult English classes in the past, but this one is truly rewarding because my students have children at the elementary school where we teach, so it gives a very personal and real feel to the classroom environment. I love that we are setting the foundation for future semesters of parents who need to learn and students who love to teach them."

Justice said, "Working with Parents for English has been such a great way to connect with an amazing group of students who are passionate about learning.”

“I think this program allows for us to connect with the Cleveland community in a new and practical way. I love getting to know all of our students, building friendships with them, and learning with and from them every time we meet.”

In 2014, the Athens Federal Foundation awarded grants to 25 charities in the service area of Athens Federal Community Bank. According to its website, the Foundation’s mission is to “support and fund community development via affordable housing, job training and programs that assist the economically disadvantaged.”

Lee’s English Language Center received the grant for the 2014-15 school year.


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