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Education Desk: Orange Co. Expands English Learning Curriculum At Libraries

Orange County Library System's ESL Specialist Jelitza Rivera. Photo: OCLS
Orange County Library System's ESL Specialist Jelitza Rivera. Photo: OCLS

The Orange County Public Library System is expanding its English language programs. This as demand grows. Classes average about 20 to 30 students and are held at eleven library branches. ESL Specialist Jelitza Rivera shares more about the program she helped to structure.

Rivera: I started with Orange County about three years ago and we didn't really have a program. We had some volunteers that would come through and teach some of the classes and they were actually quite popular, the problem was how consistent the classes were and how consistent the volunteers were, so I was brought on to design a curriculum to see if it would stick.

And we started at the southeast and then now we have expanded. Our classes range from pronunciation, something that you would find in like a speech class, and we teach grammar, we also teach vocabulary, we teach reading and we have conversation hours where they can come and practice. The classes are entirely taught in English, there are some things that for example, since I speak Spanish and English, if the person is having trouble understanding, I may direct the person and briefly explain it in Spanish but the classes are overall in English.

Chavez: There are also some digital learning resources right, tell me about those.

Rivera: We have quite a few digital resources if people want to learn language they can download Mango, or Rocket Languages, they can use those from home, download the app, register with their library card, and register in the program. If they want to come to the branch they can come and take ELLIS. ELLIS is an academic ESL program, it's pretty much academic based and there's a diagnostic test they take and it goes through the steps so that they can develop their proficiency and we recently acquired Pronunciater, which is another program they can use at the branches.

Chavez: Do you know how many English language teachers the library system has across the county?

Rivera: We have about nine. We just got funding, we had a grant, a special grant from Dollar General and that allowed us two hire to part time, casual instructors and so they come in just for the sake of teaching the class. That particular grant was a cute story, initially one of the owners of Dollar General noticed that his employees were now learning to speak English better and when he asked around what happened, it was their students were actually going to our Chickasaw Branch to learn English from one of our instructors, so he decided that he was going to donate $10,000 to the library so that we can continue offering ESL classes.

Chavez: We know there's a large influx of Puerto Ricans from the island, are you seeing that demand, do those new arrivals know about this resource?

Rivera: A lot of them do, especially my location since we are right next to the airport. A lot of times they come in and they come with their story, I ask them to introduce themselves.  They share that they just got here maybe a day or so ago, so it's happening pretty quickly.

Listen to the entire conversation by clicking on the audio player above.