By Marlene Citraro-O’Brien
I am very pleased to share my experience as an ESL and Bilingual instructor toEnglish language learners (ELLs) from many countries around the world. Our country, the Unites States, has to recognize this remarkable diversity of cultures and languages that ELLs bring to our community and schools.
I have had students with different levels of education and needs that has made me, through the years; become more than a teacher inside the classroom but a supporter, a mentor, a tutor for all of them to get what they need in order to have a normal life as any other American citizen.
The group of students I get every year is very different; different levels of education and different reasons why they come to the Unites States. Recently,I have had unaccompanied and homeless Guatemalan immigrants and the main reason is the living conditions in Guatemala,crime, lack of health care, lack of education, and unemployment.Guatemalans are desperate; they cannot find a job, so they become poor, then they cannot afford to take care of their families and send their children to the United States to find a job.
I have been working with Guatemalans, young adults, that are students with interrupted formal education (SIFE) that come to the Unites States to find a job to survive. However, they have to go to school. Their first language (L1) is Q’anjob’al (a Mayan language spoken primarily in Guatemala), not Spanish as most people would think. They come with a broken Spanish learned in the horrific process of crossing the border.
It is imperative to get to know these students in a personal way in order to get their trust, and I can say that it takes time, sometime years. This is the first step. They come with a “big luggage” of emotional situations that have to be addressed by a team of different professionals, teachers, social workers, psychologists, attorneys, to mention some. The benefit that the majorityof these students get from this team is unmeasurable.

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Once the students get the help and trust on you, then the piece of education come to place in the right moment. They are open to learn and engage in the classroom, to work hard to get an education.
It is a hard job and takes long hours of work to be at the same time a teacher, a mentor, a coach, “everything” to these students to get them on track and ease the process to adjust to the American system yet, it is very rewarding. For me, it has been a rewarding experience to be part of my student’s life and have given them a little piece of me to make them be great adults and a positive addition to the United States.
Currently, I have identified with other two professionals, the needs these ELLs students have to adjust to the American culture and system and get an education.Therefore, we decided to develop an ELL mobile application, in different languages, to centralize all the tools that the community has to offer to these students and families for them to get the help they need to navigate in the American system and culture. The topics incorporated into this mobile application refer to social, health, education, law/order, supporters, and news and events.

Sourse: Edition 33 Aldea Magazine


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