Nevada Union Adult Education offers ESL classes
ESL CLASS DETAILS
Where: Nevada Union High School campus, Room I-13
Time: 9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays and Thursdays
Where: PARTNERS Family Resource Center, 235 South Auburn St., Grass Valley
Time: 12:30-2:30 p.m. Tuesdays
It isn’t often Nevada County is referred to as a “melting pot.”
In July 2014, the last year for which the U.S. Census Bureau provides data, Nevada County’s population of 98,893 was 93.6 percent white. Not exactly the definition of heterogeneous.
But in Nevada Union Adult Education’s English as a Second Language class, you’ll find a diverse group of students who have come to Nevada County from all around the world. In the past year, there have been students attending from 16 different countries, speaking as many as 14 languages. Many students are fluent in three or four languages, just not English – yet.
“All students succeed because they learn more English than they knew before, even if they attend only one class,” says Lisa Stine, who teaches both ESL and citizenship courses.
Students learn English by using English: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. They are introduced to cultural customs and manners, as well as community resources and events. They read newspapers. They fill out forms used in daily life. They participate in lively conversations.
“We only speak English in class, and we all become one big family,” says Stine. “We focus on having fun learning English together.”
The ESL classes are offered under the auspices of the Nevada Joint Union High School District and funded by a federal grant. Classes are free and open to adults age 18 and older. There is open enrollment year-round; it’s as simple as dropping in during one of the class times.
“About 10 percent of our students are getting ready to advance to college. But it’s not always a stepping stone to higher education. Some just want to be able to live comfortably in their neighborhoods, get a job, or better communicate with their children’s schools,” explains Stine, who has been teaching at NU Adult Education for 32 years. “The common goal is to improve their lives.”
When Saira Cervantes first arrived in Nevada County from Mexico in 2010, she spoke very little English.
“I knew colors, numbers, and common phrases but not much else,” she remembers.
Thanks to a year of Adult Education ESL classes, Cervantes became fluent in English. The 36-year-old then moved on to Adult Education GED classes. She earned a High School Equivalency diploma in five months.
“I had to take the math test twice or I would have been done in four months,” she laughs.
Cervantes is now preparing to take her citizenship test, and she has nothing but praise and appreciation for Stine.
“She’s patient. Lisa is always there for you if you need something. She is willing to push you hard, but at the same time, with compassion,” says Cervantes. “The work is appropriate for whatever level you’re at. And she makes it fun.”
Cervantes is now enrolled in sign language classes at Sierra College. She’s also taking online classes to become a certified arborist. Those skills are specifically suited to her day job of helping run her husband’s tree-cutting business, Kuttler’s Tree Service. Cervantes says ESL classes have been a lifeline for her and other students.
“The classes make you feel you really can accomplish your goals. It’s not like going to school having your work marked up with a red pen. Every student is treated the same, but at the same time everyone is different,” Cervantes says. “These classes allow us to follow our dreams.”
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