Fairview Elementary sees influx of ELL students
Fairview Elementary School is a melting pot of cultures. One of Calcasieu Parish School Board’s “hubs” of resources for English language learners, Fairview’s student population is 35 percent Hispanic, up 5 percent from the previous year, said Principal Lori Bertrand.
Fairview is home to eight to 10 different Hispanic cultures, said Laurie Cunningham, English language coach. Over the last 10 years, the school has seen an influx of immigrant families and its staff has worked hard to create a learning environment equipped to meet the unique needs of ELL students.
Fairview has had the same ELL staff for nearly a decade, said Bertrand and the program has grown to include a bilingual teacher, numerous bilingual aides, a home liaison and curriculum that is designed to meet students wherever they may in their literacy development.
“It’s take a lot to build the emotional connection that is necessary to help truly grow an English language learner,” said Cunningham. However, the emotional connection, Cunningham said, is what allow students to trust the staff and in turn reassures parents in their decision to choose Fairview.
The growing ELL population has positively changed the way teachers reach students because most ELL students are mainstreamed with English proficient students and have the assistance of a bilingual aide when needed. Many teachers have learned they “can’t just spit out information,” said Cunningham. “We have to look at this (curriculum) a little differently. We’ve got be a little more creative,” she said and such “creativity” has helped raise the performance of all students.
Fairview’s commitment to ELL students goes beyond academics. The school hosts an annual “Fiesta Fun Day” where students share their foods, dances and other cultural activities unique to their home countries and also staffs an interpreter to assist parents when a concern arises. “We try to embrace the diversity — cultures, home life and identity. We don’t want to take that away,” said Bertrand.
“Strong ESL education is a benefit for the whole family,” said Monique Roberts, CPSB world language and ESL consultant. Bi-literacy opens countless new doors to these students, many of whose families come to the U.S. seeking refuge from devastation, for asylum or to work, she explained.