Our International Students pose a unique challenge in our classrooms. Having English as a second language and arriving at 80 Independence Avenue with a range of fluency, the ESL program is a necessity so these students could reach their best potentials in an American environment. Now five years into the program, teacher Tyler Wansley explains the value of the program. “The ESL program is mostly meant to acclimate International Students to their new environment, and to also provide a safe space to improve English, discuss culture, and to provide any support a person may need when they have traveled so far from home to school.” The program challenges both teacher and students as there is “no defined subject we are studying”, shares Tyler. “I try and pick topics and materials students will find engaging, and I temper my expectations with the understanding that we are all here to improve. My class should not feel like a burden, but should be helpful for what students need outside of my class. The challenge of teaching English as a Second Language has been to get people talking and writing about something they are passionate about and that makes wanting to practice English “easy”. Once we are comfortable talking about more complex ideas, we can start learning how an American speaker would convey their thoughts.” Important to the Program is the work of acclimating students to the culture they wake up to everyday. Tyler recognizes that “being so far from home can be isolating, and when you feel there are not any adults who understand that isolation it can quickly feel like you have nobody to talk to. Many students may come from cultures where the student-teacher relationship is very different, and that can complicate this matter further.” For students like Tenny Tan, Mr. Wansley is an invaluable teacher. Tenny appreciates that the ESL class has “enhanced both my speaking and writing skills. Mr. Wansley teaches how to write as Americans write and because of that I can see improvement in all my classes. He helps us to understand expressions Americans use everyday like “all set” and “awesome”. Mr. Wansley is happy to help us with work that is required for all our classes. He is always available to any International Student. Because of him, I feel a little less homesick because of projects we work on that remind us of home. I can’t thank him enough for this good class.”
Tyler is always excited when his classes arrive. It may surprise a native speaker that Tyler enjoys “questions about grammar and words. You never realize how much of your language you accept as making sense without thinking about it. Class discussions are one of my favorite parts of teaching. With ESL, this means I not only get to learn how my students think, but I get to watch them learn to express themselves better and create better arguments over time. I think there is something special about watching someone become more confident in whom they are and how they express themselves. There are many days where I change my lesson completely because the students in my class have questions about something else, and those are always the better lessons in my opinion.”
There is never a dull moment in Wansley’s classes. He and his students like it that way. As AWHS continues to build a diverse student population, the ESL program continues to be an essential ingredient for academic success and a welcome mat for students who leave behind their homes to find a new one here.