Parents learning English also
help their children
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
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
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