Education

Taxpayers are shelling out $617k for more ESOL teachers. Here’s why

Socastee High School. The Socastee and Myrtle Beach attendance areas have the highest concentration of ESOL students.
Socastee High School. The Socastee and Myrtle Beach attendance areas have the highest concentration of ESOL students. Christian Boschult

Horry County Schools is spending $617,000 this year for more teachers to instruct English Speakers of Other Languages classes.

There were 60 ESOL teachers last year and this year’s budget funds eight more positions for the upcoming school year.

But why are these classes important, and why does the district need more teachers?

Back in 2007 there were 900 ESOL students in our county. Last year the district served over 4,000 students.

Leslie Pearre, lead ESOL teacher as Myrtle Beach Middle School

“The ESOL base is expanding,” said Leslie Pearre, the lead ESOL teacher as Myrtle Beach Middle School. The Myrtle Beach and Socastee attendance areas have the most ESOL students, according to documents provided by the district.

“Back in 2007 there were 900 ESOL students in our county,” said Pearre. “Last year the district served over 4,000 students.”

Who are the students?

ESOL students are students whose native language is not English. Those students are screened for English proficiency and given the appropriate services based on each student’s knowledge of the language, Pearre said.

Some of the most common languages spoken in Horry County are Spanish, Tajik, Uzbek, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese Albanian, Turkish, Korean, Arabic and Japanese.

Leslie Pearre, lead ESOL teacher as Myrtle Beach Middle School

According to documents provided by the district, ESOL students collectively speak more than 45 different native languages, with the majority of the students speaking Spanish.

“Some of the most common languages spoken in Horry County are Spanish, Tajik, Uzbek, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Chinese Albanian, Turkish, Korean, Arabic and Japanese,” Pearre said.

Leslie DuRant, the lead ESOL teacher at Socastee High School, said she often has more than one language in her classroom.

“It’s not just Spanish,” she said. “I had four or five (languages) in one classroom last year.”

What are ESOL classes?

The classes are not classes taught in other languages, but instead are classes taught to students whose native language isn’t English.

ESOL classes support students of other languages as they are immersed into the English language and into the school system and into our community as a whole.

Tonya Kram, future lead ESOL teacher at Myrtle Beach High School

The students are taught in small or large groups, in classroom or one-on-one settings depending on each student’s needs, according to Tonya Kram, who is stepping into her role as the lead ESOL teacher at Myrtle Beach High School this year.

“It also provides social support that’s needed to assist students in our culture and becoming successful in the community also,” Kram said. “ESOL classes support students of other languages as they are immersed into the English language and into the school system and into our community as a whole.”

But teachers don’t have to speak foreign languages to teach ESOL classes.

“I don’t speak any other languages,” said DuRant, who added that she uses lots of visuals, such as gestures and videos to teach her students.

“Often with newcomers, you’re using many, many visuals and that’s a good place to really begin with them,” Kram said. “They pick up that language no matter what their first language is.”

The classes teach students social and academic communication, DuRant said. Social communication used for talking with friends is usually picked up within three years. but academic communication, which is needed for classroom learning, takes longer.

“A lot of people assume that we shouldn’t continue to teach the more advanced students once they start speaking the language,” Durant said. “But in reality, all levels need assistance from ESOL teachers.”

Neither DuRant, Kram nor Pearre started their careers as ESOL teachers.

DuRant taught second grade at Myrtle Beach Middle School for 17 years before undergoing training which allowed her to teach more ESOL students in her classes.

“I always loved teaching those students,” she said. “Even at a young age they didn’t speak any English at all, but they were coming every day and wanted to learn. It was just exciting to see them learn. I had the opportunity to go into ESOL full time and I took it, and this is my 20th year in Horry County Schools.”

Christian Boschult: 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian

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