12/12/12 — Holiday storytime: English as a Second Language students share their skills

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Holiday storytime: English as a Second Language students share their skills

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 12, 2012 1:46 PM

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Francisco Velasquez, right, a native of Mexico, and Ruge Li, from China, read a Christmas story to children in the multiage classroom at Meadow Lane Elementary School on Tuesday. They are part of the English as a Second Language program at Wayne Community College and were given an opportunity to practice what they had learned, as well as share some of their own holiday traditions with the local students.

The students were anxious but excited about reading to the multiage class at Meadow Lane Elementary School on Tuesday.

Francisco Velasquez and Ruge Li had already picked out a Christmas story to share.

They had practiced and felt prepared.

But nerves took over -- what if the boys and girls made fun of them?

This wasn't a typical case of stage fright, though.

Francisco, a native of Mexico, and Ruge, from China, are part of an English as a Second Language class at Wayne Community College.

And Tuesday and today, more than a dozen students from various countries visited Jenny Heim's class to practice some of what they had learned.

"They're excited," said Maria Abalo-Varate, coordinator and instructor in the ESL program. "They have been practicing and doing the sounds, mimics (of animals in the story). They're always willing to share how much they're learning."

Members of her class and the country they represented included Maria Covarrubias, Dora Gonzalez, Cristina Lujano and Teresa Hernandez, from Mexico; Glendy Sanchez, Guatemala; Seely Nixon, India; Hilda Castro, Peru; Carolina Amadom, Colombia; Adjovi Kpoti and Fabrice Adjafon, West Africa; Lilian Ramos, Honduras; and Tumuzgi Tekle, East Africa.

Velasquez even dressed for the occasion -- donning a white beard and a Santa suit and hat, a large red and white-trimmed sack slung over his shoulder.

"Don't forget, I go to college to learn how to speak," he announced before beginning the story he had prepared. "But if you guys want to help me, I appreciate."

As he read about a boy who had many animals -- including a cow, pigs and a cat -- Ms. Li led the students in making the appropriate sound for each.

"And I hope everybody enjoys the story. We come and try to have a good time with everyone," Velasquez said afterward, adjusting the oversized bag. "And I want to give you a little present."

He and Ms. Li asked questions about the story, doling out candy for each correct answer.

Then they shared a bit about their own native countries and the holiday traditions.

"We don't celebrate Christmas. And we don't have Christmas trees and lights," she said, to a few disappointed sighs from the audience. "Yes, that's very sad. No Santa, no presents.

"But in my country, children have new clothes, new pocket money."

"I'm from Mexico and I would like to share how we celebrate Christmas in Mexico, and I would like to know if you guys do the same thing here in the United States," said Velasquez. "We fix a little tree with lights and little animals and also we have a baby Jesus Christ."

Many here call that a nativity, Mrs. Heim explained to the class.

"Also, we have lights around the house and you guys have some lights around the house at Christmas," Velasquez continued. "And after they pray and sing, they enjoy with delicious food. Also in December, you're not going to hear any little boys cussing, saying bad words. They try to be very nice because Santa brings gifts for the good kids."

Mrs. Abalo-Varate said she was very proud of her students, not only for what they had learned in the adult education class at WCC. But also for their willingness to put it into practice at the elementary school.

"It's a wonderful experience for both, the children and our students," she said.