Parents learning English also help their children
Arizona Republic
Mar. 5, 2005

Anyone who has tried to learn a second language can relate to the tongue-tripping embarrassment of flubbed verbs and faulty grammar. For a parent, that embarrassment turns to real frustration when miscommunication costs your child's education.

Earlier this week, I met some parents in the Peoria Unified School District who meet two evenings every week to learn English and, in the process, help their children in school.

Ira A. Murphy Elementary is one of two schools that began offering English classes last fall and prompted the district to add low-cost adult English classes in six more schools. Anne Buhrmann, a Title 1 teacher at the school, started the English classes through a partnership with Glendale Community College after finding that many parents wanted to learn the language.

"They don't want to rely on their children to interpret for them," Buhrmann said. "They want to be able to talk for themselves."

Many of the students returned this semester, like Maria Salgado, who hopes to help her third-grader with his homework more and use her English skills at work.

Another parent, Mercedes Gomez, said that after living in the United States for 12 years, she is committed to learning English and is enrolled in a second class at Alta Loma Elementary.

Many of the parents said this is the first English class they could afford. With the help of federal funding, it costs $12 for each 11-week session. The parents also are grateful for the child care offered during the evening classes, which allows couples like Daniel and Maria Medina to attend together.

Buhrmann said she is already seeing results in the classrooms.

"The kids are more responsive because they see their parents putting education first," she said. "It's a great message to send to kids."

Stacie Crain Hacker, Peoria's director of English Acquisition Services, hopes that success spreads to the other schools that have started the program.

"We're trying to help parents help their children and themselves," she said, adding that research shows that when parents become more involved in the school, student achievement increases.

Hacker said the response was so great that two more schools were added when the program began in early February. About 115 parents enrolled in the English classes.

That response doesn't surprise Alice Estrada, director of the Center for Learning at Glendale Community College. The college has offered non-credit classes for adults in English as a second language since 1999, and the center has never had to advertise the constantly full classes.

The English classes will be offered again in the fall at Peoria schools.

"It's really important to our Hispanic parents," Buhrmann said. "It makes them feel more comfortable with the school."

An Arizona native, Angela Rabago-Mussi has lived in Peoria for eight years. Send any tips about people, places and events in Glendale and Peoria to