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Spanish Speaking Students Bring Many Strengths and Opportunities to KHS

Students+in+the+ESL+class+work+on+various+assignments.
Ally Tavenner
Students in the ESL class work on various assignments.

A number of our students here at Karns face a language barrier in their everyday classes. Many students, a majority fluent only in Spanish, are thrown into an unknown environment and expected to adapt instantaneously yet thanks to an ESL program here in the school, they can get the help they need to succeed.

 

Adjusting quickly to an entirely new language surely is a large struggle for these students. The ESL program put in place here at Karns is designed to teach these students fluent English and help guide them through their high school classes.

 

Allison Gallagher, one of the teachers in this program, is teaching students at multiple different levels of learning English within her classes. 

 

Gallagher shares that in total the program has sixty-seven “active ELLs” or English Language Learners, along with twenty kids that still qualify as language learners yet have chosen to not be a part of the class.

 

“We try to just speak English in the class, and we just really simplify the language enough where they’re able to figure it out. Then we just build up from there and overtime make it more and more complex,” said Gallagher.

 

Having to teach students who are nearing fully fluent English, along with those not knowing where to start can make a class like this surely a little hectic.

 

“Differentiation is what we call that when you have multiple levels in the room and you have to somehow teach all the levels,” Gallagher shares.

 

With every individual at their own different levels, these teachers have to work through the struggle of finding the tools to teach each student.

 

“With the kids that really try and engage with the content I see a lot of growth….The only major issue these teachers seem to notice is apathy or “what we call learned helplessness,” says Gallagher.

 

Sharing that students who do not want to put in effort to learn English or engage with it struggle the most in normal day-to-day classes. Though as any class will have students not finding the motivation to learn, Gallagher shares many positive remarks about her ESL kids on the contrary.

 

“I have a kid…This is my second year having him as a student, and he came to me not knowing how to read. Not knowing his letters, and then a year later he’s able to read, he’s learning English very fast, he’s passing all his classes, he’s doing amazing…The kids that try are doing amazing,” Gallagher shares.

 

Because of programs like this, students coming from different environments and homes have teachers to rely on to help get them through high school. They are able to engage and interact within their classes leading to a successful school career.

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About the Contributor
Ally Tavenner, Reporter
Ally Tavenner is a sophomore at Karns High School and this is her first year in journalism. She enjoys listening to music and spending time with her boyfriend. She moved back to Knoxville after spending 6 years in California, watches a lot of movies, and hopes to improve her writing.

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