Interviewer: Tell me your name and then your title, as you would like it to appear.
Shirlene Hill: My name is Shirlene Hill and I am a 4th and 5th grade teacher at Cherry Hill Elementary in Orem, Utah.
Interviewer: Tell me a little bit about your classroom; it’s composition and who all you teach.
Shirlene Hill: And who I teach? I have 27 students. I actually have an interesting class this year because I am teaching 4th grade and 5th grade and I have 14 4th graders and 13 5th graders and so that’s been kind of interesting, kind of fun. Um, as far as the composition, I have—relating to ESL students; I have three Spanish or Portuguese speaking students in my classroom this year.
Interviewer: Is this your first experience with those kids?
Shirlene Hill: No—oh, I’m sorry. Um, I have—last—the last two years I have had Spanish-speaking children in my class. Both years. So all three years I’ve had some ESL children and have really enjoyed them. It’s been a challenged but really fun. A couple years ago I had a little boy that came here without speaking any English at all and it was just fun to watch his progress. Last year I had another one that came here straight from Mexico and she was just delightful as she learned and was so excited and—and her learning curve had just gone straight up. Just really a—a sharp young lady.
Interviewer: What do you attribute that to?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Eurideanna) Actually one of the things, she has such a will to learn, such a strong personality. She’s not afraid of anything. She’ll raise her hand to answer a question whether she knows it or not just because she knows she’s learning and she’s not afraid. And I attribute a lot of her, you know, being so forward to—to learning—to actually learning more.
Interviewer: What was her name?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Eurideanna) Her name is Eurideanna and she’s an excellent student. I have her also this year.
Interviewer: Oh, you have her this year as well?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Eurideanna) Yes, because she came just partly through the year last year and she was um I think like—I can’t remember which month she came. Like February or March and she just—she’s an incredibly intelligent young lady.
Interviewer: Do you know what her schooling background was in Mexico?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Eurideanna) I really don’t know what her schooling background was in Mexico, but she uh—she has picked up the language faster then anybody I’ve ever seen and she’s very smart. She’s just—always wants to do everything and she’s not afraid.
Interviewer: So tell me about Jocelyn Flores.
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Jocelyn Flores is from a home where they all speak Spanish so she leaves the classroom and she goes back—right into the home and that’s all they speak. Um, I’ve met her mother and an older brother and the older brother speaks pretty good English and he—and so that—we’ve had them conference together with us. She is more timid. She’s very shy and—but I have noticed a lot of progress in her because I had her last year and we actually retained her, had her—we’re having her retake 4th grade again because she was—she was the youngest child in my class and so she really probably shouldn’t have started when she did into school and so she is—she’s now with the same age um children and—in—in the 4th grade with her. So that has worked out well and she is doing much better this year. I’ve seen a lot of progress. She’s still not as, you know, fast as others that I’ve seen but she’s doing well.
Interviewer: Did she come into your class not speaking any English?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, she was very shy when she first came into my class. I could not get very much out of her. It took a long to have her start being able to talk so I could hear her and understand her and I think it was because she didn’t feel comfortable. She didn’t know English very well.
Interviewer: Had she—her previous experience been here or in Mexico?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, she’d come here from California and we still couldn’t figure out exactly what kind of school—it was a mixed school, a lot of uh Spanish-speaking students there and from what we understand a lot of her teachers taught her in Spanish there also. So it was real hard for. I think that this is her first experience she really had had in an English-speaking school.
Interviewer: So you think her previous education had been mostly in Spanish?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) I think it was. She—she was not very far advanced in her Spanish—I mean in her English at all. She um—and her—I mean she—we started it ground zero almost. It was just starting. She did not know how to write and she’s doing much better.
Interviewer: So she didn’t know how to write like the alphabet or her name?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) She knew the letters but it—everything has been very hard for her. We wondered if she had some learning uh diffi—you know, learning problems also but we’ve had her tested in—in lots of different areas but um we really think that the language was the biggest factor.
Interviewer: So last year when you worked with her, what kinds of strategies did you use with her?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Well, whenever possible I try to do hands on things for—especially science and social studies. I really tried to be more aware of the—the students in that—in that aspect. Probably her hardest area were reading and spelling. Spelling she’s really struggled with. Um, I’ve kind of cut—you know, told her to just take as many words as she’d feel comfortable learning instead of just having a bad experience every week with spelling tests. I wanted her to have a good experience and just take, you know, part of the list and work on um…
Interviewer: What was her reading level like?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, very low. (interruption) Oh, sorry. Um, her reading was—was very low, just like a beginner reader, kindergarten, 1st grade.
Interviewer: How did you work with her?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Well, she was mostly out in her ESL class during the time that we had reading so I just—we—we tried to—I tried to get her vocabulary—you know, to work on her vocabulary so that she knew more words, both spelling and being able to, you know, look at them and—and uh recognize just vocabulary. That was one of the biggest areas. One of the areas that she really has done well in has been math and she—she knows her times tables so she feels good taking her times tables test every—every day and—and working on her math skills because that’s an area that she—she excels in. She does much better in math.
Interviewer: Is there any other things that she does well in?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, she’s—she’s had more friends this year and she’s had to speak more English with her friends because last year she kind of uh wanted to associate just with the Spanish-speaking children and I think that that has helped her a lot. She has friends that uh—and sitting—making her—having her sit by people that she feels comfortable with and students that will help her I think are—are great strategies to have in the classroom so that she can succeed. That she can ask them questions and they can help her as we go through the day.
Interviewer: Have there many surprises to you about her development?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Are there many surprises about her development?
Interviewer: Have there been any?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, no I think she’s progressing. She’s not progressing as quickly as—as I would like her to but she is progressing and I can—and I feel good about her progress. I think just—if she—you know, doing her homework at night. She’s—she’s been doing her homework more this year then she did last year. Um, so I can tell she’s feeling more comfortable. She’s understanding the concepts, understanding what we’re doing better.
Interviewer: What do you attribute her lack of progress at—to—as compared with the other ESL students?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, I don’t think she has—has—the progress that she’s making or not making I think is uh attributed well to maybe not as much help at home, not as much—although her parents do love her and do care about her and they want to help her, I think that—that she just doesn’t have the same base to—to uh—to draw from. I don’t—I don’t know how else uh—how else to put it. She just doesn’t have the same support group and maybe they don’t know where else to turn at home? But um I know that they—they’re always there. They’re there to meet her every day after school, they care about her, and—and they want her to succeed.
Interviewer: What is your major concern for her?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, my major concern for Jocelyn is that she continues and has a desire to continue to—to do her best and to—to—to succeed at being a good citizen and getting along with others and—and feeling, you know, success—feeling good about herself that she can—can succeed and that she knows that she can if she works hard enough and tries hard enough. That everybody else is there to help her, that we’re all a support group, that we’ll help her do whatever she, you know, wants to—to achieve.
Interviewer: Has it been a problem for you to have uh non-English speaking kids coming into a large class of other kids.
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) It hasn’t really been a problem to have her and non-English speaking children in my classroom. I think that—I mean it’s been a challenge but not a problem. I’ve enjoyed these students. They’re—they’re good students and they do have a desire to learn and so that makes it fun to teach them.
Interviewer: But managing the different levels of learning, how—how have you been able to manage a person coming in with grade low uh skills or—or, you know, when you’re dealing with a 4th grade curriculum, how do you manage to deal with the ESL learners and your 4th grade curriculum as well?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Dealing with uh a large level of learning um situations is—is a problem. Um, Jocelyn is the lowest child in my class. Her mother—in order to retain her said that she wanted to have her in my class or she didn’t want to retain her. So that was actually a very nice compliment. And I have just tried to work with her as much as I can individually. And like I said, I always try to have somebody sitting next to her who is a good student who can make sure she’s on task and she’s doing what she’s suppose to be doing. Um, other than that, she is a 4th grader in a 5th grade class and so I figure that the 4th graders have the biggest benefit of that because anything that they can pick up that they don’t know that, you know, they can excel in and they can learn more. So uh again, hands on things are real important. I—I just try to keep a close eye on her all day long and make sure she’s—she understands what we’re doing.
Interviewer: How is her self-confidence?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Actually her self-confidence has—has improved. She is not afraid now to answer questions whenever I ask her and I ask all of the students questions during the day and—and she will talk so I can hear her now and—and I—I just feel like that’s, you know, because she feels more confident, that she will tell me her answer. So I feel—I feel like she’s made progress.
Interviewer: And what about her motivation?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, she knows that her family wants her to succeed so I think her motivation is—she wants to be a better student, she wants to succeed and she wants to succeed for her family, she wants to succeed for herself. She—I can just tell that she has a desire to do better and—she’s a sweet girl and I—I just know that—that she does want to do her best.
Interviewer: What role do you feel her peers have played in her progress?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) I believe the role that her peers have played in her pro—progress is very—a very large role. She um—I don’t think that she would want to succeed as much if she didn’t want to be able to communicate better with her friends and be able to—to do as well as they do. You can just tell when she’s done something and done something well how pleased she is and how she feels when she understands what she’s doing. She feels good about herself. And her—her friends, they all—she has a—a good group of friends and—and they all care about each other and they’re really—really sweet to each other. Really cute.
Interviewer: What’s the most significant thing that you’ve learned from teaching her and other ESL students?
Shirlene Hill: (referring to Jocelyn Flores) Um, one of the most significant things I feel like I’ve learned from Jocelyn as well as my other ESL children is how patient I have to be and actually I really do have fun looking at how I can teach the things I’m teaching in a way that they can understand. I mean just trying to think of how I can put this so that they can understand um actually I think its helped me to be a better teacher by trying to do more fun things with them, more hands on things with them. And…
Interviewer: What advice would you give to other teachers who are learning to deal with ESL kids?
Shirlene Hill: I think the advice that I would give to other teachers dealing with ESL children is to just love them and care about them as you would your own children. Try to give them every chance that they can to succeed.
Interviewer: All right. Do you have anything else you want to say?
Shirlene Hill: Not really.
Interviewer: You can say anything you want in the world.
Shirlene Hill: I’d rather not say anything.
Interviewer: Tell me a little bit about the—at the end of the day, the emotions you go through after having gone through the trials and tribulations of working with these kids and bringing them back to speed. Tell me a little bit about the personal feeling about that.
Shirlene Hill: You know, at the end of the day most of the time I feel really good about what’s going on. I’m always tired and it takes me hours to prepare for the next day. I just—I put a lot into what I do and—and I just—I don’t know. There’s—I really, really love and care about my students and that’s why I put—put all of my time and effort into my teaching because it means a great deal to me to try to reach each one. And every night I—I think about each one as I grade their papers and—and look at what they’ve accomplished or maybe what their—they’ve missed—they’re missing, what they need to—what I need to re-teach them. And I do spend a lot of time thinking about this and—and how I could do better.
Interviewer: Is there anything we could do to help you?
Shirlene Hill: I don’t know? Do you have any suggestions? (laugh)
Interviewer: We probably will.
Shirlene Hill: Yeah, I’m—I’m always open to suggestions and I think that that’s—well, important because I—actually the ESL classes, I have really enjoyed just to talk about ways that we can, you know, think about it.
Interviewer: When did you take them?
Shirlene Hill: I am taking the ESL Endorsement classes right now.
Interviewer: Oh, are you.
Shirlene Hill: And I—it’s been an eye opener to me. It’s really helped me to go back to my classroom and—and do these things that I’ve just been telling you. That as I—I really try to think about how can I reach these children? How can I build their vocabulary? How can I help them under—just understand these concepts?
Interviewer: How far are you along?
Shirlene Hill: How far am I along?
Interviewer: In the Endorsement courses.
Shirlene Hill: Oh, I’m just barely finishing the first term of the classes.
Interviewer: Oh, great.
Shirlene Hill: So it’s—I have enjoyed it. All but the homework. Actually it’s made me have a better appreciation for my students as I give them homework. Maybe to make sure it’s worthwhile homework.