Estes Elementary School, Asheville,NC


NC71’s Leadership project upfitted an English as a second language mobile unit with computers, a TV, a VCR and software. February 2005.

Community gets involved to help ESL project at Estes

February 17, 2005

ASHEVILLE — A few computers, a little floor wax and the kindness of strangers are helping the English as a Second-language program at Estes Elementary School.  About 13 percent of the school’s 900 students don’t speak English fluently. They come from about 20 different countries, but most are native Spanish speakers from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, said Estes Principal Martin Mann.  To help them learn English faster, the school recently began a project that involved people in the community, not just teachers at the school.
The project started with 16 people and three months of adult education training at WorldLegacy, a leadership training company just outside Raleigh. The program required teams to develop and complete a community service workshop.

Anne Belle Peevey, an instructor at Montessori Learning Center who participated in the program, knew that Estes Elementary needed more ESL supplies, and she began a campaign to acquire equipment.

“The ESL program was heavily underfunded, and the students at Estes needed new technology,” Peevey said.

WorldLegacy Team members sought donations from churches and community organizations and got five refurbished computers with monitors, two printers and a new television and videocassette recorder to help get ESL students into regular classes faster.

They raised more than $2,000 in private donations to buy additional ESL software, headphones and classroom supplies. The team washed and waxed the floor of the ESL trailer and rearranged the classroom’s furniture to make room for the new equipment.

“It’s an incredible experience to see what can happen when a group of 16 people comes together and produce an amazing project to create an elevated level of learning for these children,” Peevey said.  This was an extreme makeover project.

Estes takes an integrated-intensive approach to educating ESL students, said Principal Mann. And it usually doesn’t take long for ESL students to pick up English.

“The majority of their time is spent in the regular classrooms,” Mann said.”The best way for them to learn English is to be around their peers.”

Students usually learn “playground” English, or social language skills, in about a year, said ESL teacher Susan Tackett.

But it may take up to 10 years for students to develop a broad and highly developed English vocabulary, Tackett said.

So the technological resources provided by the WorldLegacy team will definitely help accelerate their English skills, she said. Students particularly like using the interactive software and headphones. They can hear an English word, repeat it into the headphones and hear their own voice in English, giving them instant feedback.

“The WorldLegacy group did a spectacular job and did it in a short amount of time,” Tackett said. “They were very focused on their goal. Our resources are so minimal that sometimes we have to get creative and invent them. We would have never gotten the computers and software if the WorldLegacy group hadn’t helped us.”

Reprinted with Permission Asheville Citizen-Times, Asheville, North Carolina