Carmen Soto and Miriam Vilchis, two mothers in Battle Creek Michigan, are doing so well in their English as a Second Language class (ESL) that they recently started teaching entry-level students themselves. The ESL program is designed to help families with Latino and Hispanic background by providing resources and a chance to better integrate into the community.
Vilchis is 31 years old and has been living in the United States for the last nine years. She started classes two years ago but has made impressive strides and is now eligible to take her GED, which she is currently studying for. She said that ESL courses have helped her speak better English, make friends and become more independent. She can now navigate simple, everyday situations, like going to the doctor, without needing an interpreter.
Soto is 42 years old and understands the struggle of learning a new language very well – especially later in life – which is why she turned to her children for help. She said she would practice with them at home, admitting that practicing is vital in the process, something she instills in her beginner students from day 1. She explained that she wanted to teach beginners because she can relate to the difficulties they face and has a great desire to help them.
The two women started by teaching their students numbers, the alphabet and how to spell their names. Vilchis constantly stresses the importance of her students knowing how to properly spell their names in everyday life, since something so basic makes visits to the doctor and stopping at the bank much easier and less stressful. She and her teaching partner admit that students are often frustrated because they mispronounce words, but they both insist on the importance of continuing to try.
Soto and Vilchis both value the importance of learning English and both credit learning English with helping them to become more engaged in the community, which is something they are also trying to teach their students.