Cynthia Zhang, Ruby Cheng, JoJo Guo and Umran Yildiz may have arrived in Milpitas under similar circumstances with their partners relocating to the Bay Area for work.
But the four of them have different reasons why they enrolled in English As A Second Language (ESL) classes at Milpitas Adult Education (MAE), which offers beginner to advanced courses for adult learners.
“Our main goal is to help them reach their personal, career, health and financial goals that they have for themselves,” said Elsie Chandler, who has taught ESL to hundreds of adult learners in Milpitas over the last decade.
“Some want a new job; some want to get back into the profession they held in their home country; some want to be able to help their kids and grandkids with their homework; and some want to be more active at their children’s school,” Chandler added.
Zhang, 41, moved from Beijing, China to Milpitas with her husband and two daughters three years ago. She just enrolled in ESL in August for the first time, but tested into the advanced class. Shortly after her family’s arrival, the pandemic hit and she found very few opportunities to converse in English. At her home, the family communicates mostly in Mandarin.
“I was getting less confident in my English and wanted to be able to better communicate with others, and I also want to find a job,” said Zhang, knowing the importance of learning English to fulfill her aspirations. “This class is very interesting. I have learned so much already.”
Cheng, 42, of Berryessa, and Guo, of Fremont, both immigrated from Taiwan with their families after their husbands secured jobs in the Bay Area. Cheng, a mother of twin 7-year-old girls, was an engineer herself in Taiwan for more than 10 years. However, she spoke little English and felt her grasp of the language was worsening so she enrolled at MAE.
“[Mrs. Chandler] is so open-minded. We can discuss so many topics in class. It gives us a lot of chances to speak and talk to each other,” Cheng said. “Most of us want to get our English as good as native speakers. I think this is very good for accomplishing that.”
Guo, 40, is in her second year at MAE, although she took some classes while living in Michigan before coming here, and wants to attend community college once she graduates “because I want to own a small [baking] business and get a degree.”
“When we come to school, we are happy every day,” added Guo.
Yildiz, 34, whose last name translates to “star,” moved with her family from Turkey to Flagstaff, Arizona prior to arriving in Milpitas. Her husband found work at a university and has since moved to the private sector. She learned some English in Turkey and then online with Northern Arizona University so she was placed into MAE’s advanced class.
“I would like to improve my English because I want to be a kindergarten teacher,” shared Yildiz, who has school-aged children of her own. “In Milpitas, I really like it because we have so many friends in class and we talk and speak and discuss.”
Mrs. Chandler has 23 adult learners representing 10 different nationalities (Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Turkish, Indian, Mexican, Colombian, Venezuelan, Honduran, and Brazilian) in her advanced ESL class. All but one of them are parents of elementary and middle school students.
Now in their third week of school, they have been working on getting acquainted with each other; identifying their SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) goals for English acquisition; and sharing their personal interests, abilities, and skills to recognize jobs that interest them. In addition, they have learned how to identify the main idea of articles and paragraphs as well as the supporting details.
This week (Aug. 29-Sept. 2) they are collaborating in pairs on a presentation project, in which they will research a famous person they admire, develop the main points and supporting information to be presented, and then they will create Google Slides for their presentation.
“This project will help to build ESL students' confidence in speaking and presenting, as well as help build their vocabulary and grammar structures,” said Mrs. Chandler, who knew zero English when she immigrated with her family from Brazil as a teenager. “I can really relate and connect with them. I struggled my first year here.”
Mrs. Chandler sets aside time for Civics and Life Skills Units, where her students learn about workforce preparation, community service, good citizenship, job interview preparation, and also just how to talk with your doctor or teacher.
“The number one thing is building confidence. A lot of them come in very shy and unsure of themselves,” she added. “We do a lot of practice and activities to help build their confidence.”
Interested in exploring your own pathways to career or learning English? Know someone who is? Check out the Adult School website for registration information at adulted.musd.org.
NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING:
The governing board of Milpitas Unified School District will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, June 28, 2022.