Arely Monterrosa: My name is Arely Monterrosa and I am the ESL—the specialist in school I have another title that I also—the diversity specialist in the school and I work with about 100 ESL students.
Interviewer: Arely, tell us about your class.
Arely Monterrosa: Well, um you mean the individual class?
Interviewer: Talk about the program.
Arely Monterrosa: OK. We have an ESL program and what we’re doing this year; we’re trying something new. We’re working in the classrooms and also we have a pullout program. I have uh three helpers, Natalia and Jeremy. They’re—they go into the classroom and work with the ESL students. They just um have the ESL students in the back of the room and they work with a—the group—a group of five or six uh for a half hour a day. And what they do in the classrooms is like if uh the lower grade um students they—they teach the alphabet, they teach the sounds, and they also teach whatever the teacher is doing in language and uh in spelling and all that. And they do reading also and writing. And they work like, you know, in groups. And in the pullout, I work with the upper graders uh, uh 3rd and up, and Sydney is the one that helps me like three days a week for two hours a day. And uh what we do is that we bring the students to my room and uh on Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s we do reading and writing all—only. And on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s we do spelling, we do the different activities like uh I do memorizing poems and I teach the students about, you know, um the family, you know, like a grandparent—grandparents and all the names in English, you know. And we—we study about the—the body parts, we study about the vocabulary they use in the school, and we study about the seasons of the year, winter, spring, uh some—the months of the year and the—the days of the week. And we do a study about, you know, community also. And those are just a few of the things that we do in those two days. And those we—we do like um art things, like uh for each holiday we do a little bit special. Like for Christmas we do stockings and the day before I tell the children that the day before they go to Christmas vacation Santa comes and puts the candies in their stockings. I teach them a little bit about the culture of the United States and also we do little Christmas trees and we do it with uh pieces of puzzles and in the middle we put a picture of the—of each student. And that’s personalized because that’s the—the Christmas present that they do for the parents. So and—and every holiday I teach them why we celebrate this holiday and, you know, the differences between United States and the country that they come from. That’s a little bit of the…
Interviewer: Where—what countries do your…
Arely Monterrosa: Well, I have uh Mexico most, the students are from Mexico and I have quite a few from South America like Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Columbia. And I have some from Poland and I have like uh five—four students from Russia. And um I have some from Brazil, you know, they don’t speak uh, you know, English or Spanish most of them. But two of them, they understand uh Spanish but the other ones they don’t. They just speak Portuguese. And with the Russians it’s very interesting because I have to use a lot of body language with them because I don’t speak Russian. So that’s why—I have from Central America also.
Interviewer: So each child, how much time do you say does each child get?
Arely Monterrosa: In the upper graders I pull them for at least 40 minutes a day.
Interviewer: And the younger kids for 30 minutes?
Arely Monterrosa: Mm-hmm. Yes.
Interviewer: The—the people work in the classroom?
Arely Monterrosa: Yes, they do.
Interviewer: OK, we’re interested in having you talk about some particular students.
Arely Monterrosa: OK.
Interviewer: Could you talk about Roxanna?
Arely Monterrosa: Yes, uh what other things do you want me to…
Interviewer: We’ll start out just telling me what you know about her and how—what you’re doing to help her.
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) OK. Um, by Roxanna Rodriguez um she was born in the United States. She was born in California. Um, but uh she is um a very, very limited, limited um in the native language, which is Spanish so she cannot write or read in Spanish and therefore she’s just struggling all the way with English language. And um she um—well, right now Roxanna—I don’t know if I talk to you about it but she is in the special ed also. Mrs. Buck works with her for three hours because uh her grade level is uh maybe um 2nd or 3rd grade and then she is in 5th right now. (interruption) What I have been doing with her is uh work with her individual, you know, one-on-one and I’m helping her with reading and with writing and she has improved a little bit. Now as much as I want, but she has improved a little bit. And um one thing that’s very important with Roxanna is to uh stimulate her self-esteem because when she feels good about it, about her and when she feels good in the environment that she is, she performs better. But when she uh doesn’t have that kind of environment, she just back out and she just doesn’t do anything. So it’s a very challenging case.
Interviewer: What does she do well in school?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Oh, she is um—she’s very helpful. She’s very helpful a student and she is good in math. She’s not excellent but she is fairly good in math and she uh—she do good in uh art also. And she’s uh a social person, very social. So…
Interviewer: Do you have anything else that you want to add about Roxanna?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, the only thing is that she’s a very happy girl. Most of the time she’s—she’ really happy and then—and she’s willing to do—when you show her love, she’s willing to do anything for you. Yeah.
Interviewer: And what—what do you perceive as her biggest challenge right now? What do you want to help her with the most?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Well, I think um what I want to help with the most is the reading and writing because if she can uh master the reading, everything else will be easy for her.
Interviewer: What are the areas of English that she struggles with the most?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Um, I think comprehension is very hard for her. Very hard. And the—the writing, you know, is just uh, you know the sequence—sequence of the sentences and the, you know, the spelling.
Interviewer: Are there any stories that stand out in your mind that kind of—about her?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Roxanna Rodriguez) Well, I uh—when I think of Roxanna I—two of more—two of students--two names came to my mind like uh Jose and Jocelyn because they are similar cases. Um, when I think of them, I just think about Thomas Edison, you know, when she—when he uh invent the light, he didn’t do it in the first time. He went on and on and on, many, many, many times until he developed—uh he perfected that. And that’s I think about Roxanna, Jose, and Jocelyn. Even though they are struggling they just keep going and keep going and keep go—keep going. It’s just—it’s just amazing. I really admire those kids. They—they don’t give up. You know? They just keep going even though they—they are struggling.
Interviewer: Would you like Audi Kato?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Audi Kato) Yes, Audi—he—uh Audi Kato, he’s a third grader and um when he was in first grade it was a really negative experience Audi and that the whole year thing. It doesn’t matter what I did, I just couldn’t bring him out of that negative stage because uh the teacher uh was telling him every day that he couldn’t do anything, he cannot read. And even though I only had Audi at that time, half hour, and I—I talked to Audi and I said, “You’re very intelligent. You’re very smart boy and you can do it, Audi. You can do it.” Uh, that’s my only basket because I only have him half hour, but all the negative that he received every day, it was really bad for him. So he really—I didn’t see any progress at all. So when I uh—when Audi was—it was time for Audi to go to 2nd grade because I help the principle to uh place the students, the ESL students, that’s one of my responsibilities as a diversity specialist in this school. Um, I asked Dr. Harward if I can choose the teacher for Audi. So I did. And uh—and I went to talk to his teacher and I knew she was a very good teacher and I talked to her about Audi and I said, “Audi had this experience in I will really appreciate if you can help me to boost his self esteem.” And so the teacher, she did. She—she was so good and she—so that, yeah, I wanted it to be positive. And it was a huge change. He did uh start coming out and he did start, you know, I—I saw progress in his reading, in his writing. And he was—all we wanted to, you know, just to—to keep doing, I think, to keep progressing. And so it—it was—it was really a big change. Now Audi’s in 3rd grade and the teacher that he—that he has is not as negative as the 1st grade, but not as positive as the 2nd grade, so Audi progressing very slowly, little by little. But he—he is still doing it and—and another thing about Audi is that—that he’s um—you know, his uh environment at home is not ideal because I—I also know most of the problems with the parents and the students, not because I ask, but because the parents come to the school and—and ask for my help in their lives and—and Audi’s parents are—their relation is not very good and that’s affecting Audi a lot. It is affecting Audi more than the girls. But Audi’s a very good boy and I feel that even though he’s gonna go through a lot uh tribulations and a lot of, you know, obstacles in life, I—I have the feeling that he’s going to make it. I really do.
Interviewer: What are his sisters’ names?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Wendy and Dasi Kato) Wendy Kato and she is in 4th grade and then uh we have Dasi. Dasi’s in 7th grade this year.
Interviewer: Is Wendy doing well in school?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Wendy Kato) Wendy’s doing excellent. In the first week that—that Wendy came to school uh she cried—uh, the first day she was crying and crying. The second day they called me and I stayed with Wendy the whole day in the classroom and then I stayed with Wendy for two more days and then start taking her to my classroom and she—that was the cure. She just needed a little bit of secure—a little bit of trust, somebody that she could trust and that was the—that was the medicine and Wendy’s doing excellent?
Interviewer: How long have they been here?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Wendy and Dasi Kato) Um, in—they were born in the United States, in California but they have been here uh two sisters for a year. But Wendy, uh she is performing well in the classroom already. Uh, last year I didn’t have Wendy because she scored very high in the tests. (interruption) Yeah, the feeling is a little bit different.
Interviewer: How about Wendy’s uh skills?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Wendy Kato) Wendy’s skills are—are excellent and the—one thing about Wendy I remember is uh she was so determined to learn the English. She was very determined and she—she came uh—every time she came to my room, if uh, um the class didn’t start already she’d pick a book and just start reading. Um, so she was very good. She’s a very, very good reader. And—and I have talked to because I—to the teacher because I have to have the students being monitored for two years, even though they score high on the tests. And the teacher said that um she is excellent student and she does everything. You know, is very um—try to do everything perfect. You know?
Interviewer: What do you say is the difference between Audi and Wendy?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Audi and Wendy Kato) OK. The difference between Audi and Wendy is that Audi um, like I said, the problem at home is affecting him more than the girls and the—I’ve seen Audi like uh a lack of desire to—to succeed right now. And uh Wendy has that determination. It doesn’t matter what, she wants to keep going and she wants to just learn about everything. That’s the big difference.
Interviewer: So they had gone to school in California I guess before they came here?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Audi, Wendy, and Dasi Kato) Yes. Mm-hmm. Yes. Yes, they—they went—um in California they were in a school and they uh understood that they receive um most of the—most of the—the classes were in Spanish. That’s what I understood. So they—they were not really exposed to the English until they got to Utah, to Cherry Hill.
Interviewer: And how is Audi’s Spanish?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Audi and Wendy Kato) Audi’s Spanish—and that’s another difference between Audi and Wendy. Wendy is uh very proficient in Spanish, Audi’s not. Audi’s not. Um and Audi, another thing is that somehow along the way um some circumstances or somebody put in his mind the idea that to speak to Spanish and to learn about the Spanish is not a good thing. And Wendy’s the opposite also. So that’s another difference between the two of them.
Interviewer: Are there other children you would like to talk about?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Santiago and Daniel) Well, I would like to talk about two that are proficient in—in their Spanish and this is um Santiago and Daniel. They came to the United States about three in a half months ago and uh they um—they were very good students in their country.
Interviewer: Where were they from?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Santiago and Daniel) And they—they—one is from Argentina and the other one is from Mexico. OK? Daniel’s from Mexico, Santiago’s from Argentina. And uh the thing about these two students is they uh, you know—I don’t know if I can say this but when I think about Santiago and then Daniel, um Abraham Lincoln come to my mind. I don’t know why because. Um, we know about Abraham that he had so many obstacles in his life, but he was so determined to learn about everything. You know? He was very determined. So uh he did and he went to the top. And I think Santiago and Daniel are going to do the same. They—they’re just going to do the same because um they are so determined to learn about everything and they ask questions about everything. And they are um, you know, like um in the spelling I help them two days a week with their spelling—not the whole time, but uh they uh—most of the time I just start with 10 words, you know, and if they are really new like they are I start with five words. But they go through the whole list, you know. And I—I tell them, you know, the pronunci—pronunciation and then they have to look the meaning of the word in the dictionary and they have to do one sentence in English for me. And I help them with that. But the—the—the only thing, they go the extra mile and they—they are just joking and they just uh laughing when they are working. They—they’re really happy, they’re determined, but…(unintelligible)…they’re really happy. They—they don’t back off from the way that they are. They are themselves. And um and another thing about them is that there might be people laugh about them, you know when they pronounce the English, they just keep going. It don’t bother that—that—so that’s what I think about Abraham Lincoln—compare them to Abraham because I think they’re going to have obstacles with life, but I think they’re going to go to the top. That’s my feeling about those two boys. And they—they are getting 100 percent in the spelling with their whole list. And one of the teachers, Miss Jacobsen, she just did um a quiz about dinosaurs and, of course, I guess she talked to the students—to the students about that, but Daniel and Santiago came to my room, they were so excited and they told me that they got 42 questions, they got the 42 correct. And they always tell me, “Not even the students who speak English do that, teacher.” And I said, “Yeah, good for you. You can have an extra candy.” That’s what I tell them all the time. Ooh. So they’re—they’re amazing. They’re really amazing.
Interviewer: What do you attribute that to?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Santiago and Daniel) Um, one thing is um, uh the environment that they are—you know, um in the beginning the teacher, Miss Jacobsen, she was very nervous, very concerned. She didn’t know what to do and all that and—and uh she um—she want the boys in one group to be in the Spanish immersion classes and I arranged for them to be one hour in one Spanish immersion class with Miss Wilson, but I talked to the students and they didn’t want to—to stay in there—that class. They were—they felt very comfortable in their class so I talked to Mrs. Jacobsen about it and I said, “They just—they just…”—what I do it, I just—you can say what they just bring and tell them, you know, that—that the—the students they—they just love to be in their class. And when I do that, the teachers responds positive and they uh—they—they treat the students, you know, in a positive way when I do that. So this is my secret. So I don’t know if it’s going to be—anyway, that’s one of my secrets that I do so after that—and we have meetings with the parents about three times because she wanted the students to be in another class and—and the parents, I asked them their—their feelings and they said that they wanted the students to stay in the class that they were. So—so I just uh talked to the teacher again and so finally the students have stayed there, but they are so happy because they have—they really have friends and they—they want to be in there. So they—“I really want to be.” And when they come to my class and if they have a problem, they always come to my class. They always come look for me. And—and I just go and—and fix the problem. And, you know, and—and that’s one of my—the things I do in school also.
Interviewer: Are there any other kids you’d like to talk about?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Jose Flores) Well, let’s see. I would like to talk about Jose Flores. Jose Flores is uh—when I think of Jose Flores, I—I always feel a little bit sad because um—oops you better cut that because I’m going to start crying. I don’t want this to be in the video please. (interruption) Oh. Well, um Jose’s a—is a um—he’s a very good boy but—I don’t know if I’m going to go through this. Maybe I’m—um, but um—because the way that he, you know, he dressed. His appearance, physical appearance uh, you know, he doesn’t have particularly any friends and…
Interviewer: He doesn’t have very many friends at school?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Jose Flores) No. Um but um last year he was uh a 5th grader and I chose the teacher for him because uh, um there are two 5th grade teachers, you know, one is a little bit better than the other one and—with ESL students so I chose Julie to be his teacher and—and I—I just said the same thing with Julie. I—I told her that I that Jose love her—uh his teacher and he was really happy to be there. And so Julie changed, you know. She—she was very good with—for Jose. Um, she was uh loving, you know, because Jose—uh, I don’t think they received to uh physical, you know, like love—uh, physical love from their home or things like that. Of course, most of the—the—my ESL students are in the same situation. But so while Julie was doing that and so Jose—I saw Jose last year on improvement and—and uh he wanted to please the teacher all the time. So that was good because he was trying um harder. And um and you know I, you know, told Julie that what would be really nice if, you know, if she, you know, recognized, you know, things that he did, so he was—she was doing all year so—so it was really, really good year for Jose. So for this year I chose Mr. Strong because among all the teachers in the school I think, my opinion, is that Mr. Strong is one of the best with the ESL students because he just treats them the same, like the other ones, and he’s very, you know, kind and love them and so—and that’s the matter with Jose, he doesn’t have, you know, nice clothes or the appearance that—he always, you know, hug him or just do the same things that he does with everybody. So Jose feels part of that class this year. So—so he’s also improving. And his stories that he writes has—they have improved a lot also this year. But I—when I think about these students I feel so worried and so afraid when they go to the 7th grade. I just—I’m sorry.
Interviewer: How do think—how do you think we can help them to get prepared for the 7th grade. What reading level is Jose on?
Arely Monterrosa: I think we—well, we need to prepare the teachers.
Interviewer: What—what do you think we can do with Jose to help him be better prepared?
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Jose Flores) Well, I think Jose uh a lot uh more help in the reading and the writing.
Interviewer: So he would be a good person for us to work with.
Arely Monterrosa: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Interviewer: Uh, why don’t we have you kind of think broadly now about—when you look at all these hundred students, what are the major things that are causing some to be successful and some to have—need more challenge? What—what are the factors that are contributing to?
Arely Monterrosa: OK. For me what I have seen through the years in this school is the—what helps to be successful is um the way that the teacher think about that. If the teacher thinks that they not good for anything, that’s how they’re going to act and that’s how they act. But if the teacher see a student not the way that they are right now but the way that they’re going to become…
Interviewer: What I wanted you to do is to think in broad terms about some of the factors that are making a difference between uh kids that are doing well and succeeding and kids that are not.
Arely Monterrosa: OK, what I think uh to help a student to succeed in a school is the teacher. If the teacher uh thinks of the students that he or she doesn’t know anything or they cannot do anything, um they’re not good for anything, that’s how the student’s going to act and that’s how the student’s going to feel because uh the kids are very sensitive and they believe whatever the teacher think about them. That’s what they believe. And so if the teacher thinks of the student about that, that’s how the student’s going to perform. So it’s not going to succeed in—in um the school. But on the other hand, if the teacher sees the student not as the student is in that moment but as the student’s going to become, you know, the proudest of the students is gonna be the level the student is going to be like in two years or uh—or uh two months, or whatever the time is that the teacher wants to set um, that student is going to perform that—like that and the progress is going to be faster and the student is going to succeed. And that’s gonna stay in that student in—in side of him or her. And it’s going to help that child that child the rest of the life because I truly believe, I truly believe this, that a teacher can build or can destroy a life. I just truly believe that.
Interviewer: Give an example.
Arely Monterrosa: (referring to Hime Opessa) I have an example. A boy, Hime Opessa. He’s a 5th grader. He came from Mexico about three in a half months ago and he was doing so bad in—in his class. The teacher said he was a troublemaker and that he cannot do anything. And that language—somehow the teacher, you know, passed that language to this student and uh—and the student sensed that and heard things and so that’s how he was performing. He didn’t do anything in the class. Nothing. And—and he was just making trouble because uh that’s the way the teacher believed. So I—I felt it—it was better for the student to—to take him out of that class and put him in another class. So I talked to a—a different teacher, a Spanish immersion teacher, and I asked if this teacher for help. I said, “ I need your help. I feel that I need to take Hime out of the cl—the class that he is in right now because that boy needs, you know, a little bit of love and he needs uh that the teacher believe in him so he can start working. So the teacher agreed to help in that and right now, even though Hime is like a 3rd grade level and he’s in 5th, but right now he is doing the work in the classroom at the best of his ability. And he’s so happy and he’s happy to come to school every day. He’s happy to be in his classroom and he has friends. And I remember the day when I took Hime to the other class, the teacher just called everybody’s attention and she made a big deal about Hime for being in their class and—and that boost Hime’s self esteem right in—in the beginning. And so she—uh he trusted the teacher completely and he loves that teacher, you know, completely. So it’s just a—just amazing what a little love and a little bit of, uh you know, understanding. You know, the situation with ESL students you can—as a teacher you cannot expect the student to perform at the same of the other class uh if they just came from another country. You can't do that.
Interviewer: OK, are there any other factors that uh—that you think are kind of overwriting issues.
Arely Monterrosa: Um, like another problem I have seen in the school is like um, uh teachers, they don’t know what to do with ESL students but I believe that a teacher can work with an ESL student, they just need to modify or uh, you know, the curriculum or the way that they present the lesson. Just change a little bit, you know. Just uh—I know it’s a little bit more work but that’s what a teacher is for, to change a life. So if that’s going to help build a life, that’s worth it, a little bit more time.
Interviewer: What about individual factors in the kids? Are there kids uh—language factors, for example, that you see that have an impact on uh—on the child’s success?
Arely Monterrosa: OK, like uh you know recognize—orally, verbally recognize the uh—even if it’s a little tiny success like—I don’t know. I don’t care if it’s just a picture that they do well, you know. But if you recognize that uh that will help the student to build up, you know. And, you know, uh start building up the student from the knowledge of—if it’s just a little thing that they know. You know, start from that and build up.
Interviewer: I was thinking, in particular, about uh the difference between Daniel who you said had a very strong educational background in his native language…
Arely Monterrosa: Yes.
Interviewer: …and some of the kids who don’t. Is that a factor?
Arely Monterrosa: Oh, that’s a—that’s a fact. I have seen that. I have seen that over and over. When a child is very proficient in their native language, they transfer that to the English language (bell rings) or any other language really quickly. And uh, uh also when (bell rings)
Interviewer: Shall we…
Arely Monterrosa: Sorry.