One student had a novel motivation to learn English. Her future daughter-in-law didn’t speak Spanish, and she wanted to make sure she could talk with her. “There’s all kinds of reasons people give for taking the class,” says Daniel Jordan, a 23-year-old ESL teacher at MEND. “It’s never just one or two things.”
Since becoming a MEND volunteer in 2014, Jordan says students have told him they choose the class because they wanted access to better jobs, pass the citizenship test or simply to fit into their community better. “They want to learn English so they feel more like they’re a part of where they live,” he says.
Jordan, a Northern California native, learned his second language in an unconventional way. Home schooled, one day his mother bought Rosetta Stone Spanish software. He loved it. But the small town he grew up had a limited Latino population, so Jordan went on line and became friends with people who were fluent. They helped with grammar and overall comprehension.
A few years ago, he moved to Southern California to go to The Master’s University in Santa Clarita. When he got here, he wanted to become involved in the area and googled volunteer positions, finding the opening for a teacher at MEND. Despite studying the language, he didn’t often hear it spoken. “At first it was a challenge to me when the students talked,” he said. “It’s not one anymore. But they definitely helped.”
During the 15-week course, he has seen people go from being unable to say a word in English to becoming conversational. The best part, he says, is seeing the improvement and confidence grow in the students. Also, he says, the learning process has become a great deal of fun. “It’s very enjoyable for all of us,” says Jordan of the roughly 30 students per class. “We become like one big family. We have a party at the end and everyone is having a good time, clapping.”
Despite teaching ESL, Jordan says having the students learn English is only one of his goals. The other is teaching them how to learn. Often, students have little formal education, so he teaches them how to study, ask questions and retrain information. These are skills that will help them throughout their lives. “I’m really just a tool for them to use, something to better themselves,” he says. Although he’s now a full-time accountant at Vallarta Supermarkets, Jordan says he looks forward to the two weekly classes at MEND and the chance to help. “I love teaching at MEND,” he says. “Some of these students have become best friends.”
By Volunteer Bill Kelley