One of the criteria when admitting these students is that they have a high propensity to grasp a new language and continue to succeed in their academics. For the majority of the school day, the ESL students participate in regular class work, meeting with their ESL teachers for one period. During that time, the ESL teachers are tasked with helping students gain both academic English and casual English fluency.
“The ESL classroom is a safe-haven for my students. It is a place where they can learn and practice the language without being conscientious about their mistakes. It is an atmosphere that provides them the opportunity to gain the confidence in themselves as they assimilate to a new culture,” explains Michelle Arango, ESL teacher for kindergarten and the elementary school grades. “Aside from the direct instruction of the English language, this is a place where they can express their feelings, share their concerns and reflect on one another’s growth as an English speaker.”
Arango prefers to work with students in small groups, personalizing instruction to the student’s individual needs. “I build the curriculum based on what the students are seeing in their content areas, as well as what they are having trouble with during class. I work independently with each elementary school student during the writing process.”
At the middle school and high school, ESL teacher Sue Mallak uses the Pearson/Longman Keystone program which is specifically designed to assist with English language acquisition. The students take a placement test at the beginning of the year to determine their individual English ability. According to Mallak, the ESL teacher facilitates and assists students in progressing through the various Keystone levels.
Both teachers are committed to an immersion program. “For middle and high school, the ESL classroom is ‘English Only,’ both in writing and talking. We encourage the ESL students to take advantage of every English speaking and listening opportunity available,” shares Mallak.
Arango says she speaks to her students in English 100% of the time. “I will only speak Spanish with Spanish speakers when they can’t communicate with me about something specific and I answer them in Spanish and translate it into English. For many other students where their first language is not Spanish, we communicate through hand signals and picture cards.”
The system obviously works. Sagemont’s ESL students learn English as an impressively fast rate. Most matriculate out of the program within a few months, but it can take longer. Many ESL students go on to win school awards in reading, spelling and composition.
Class of 2011 Salutatorian Beatriz Mourad is one shining example. Both she and her brother started Sagemont with very little exposure to English and both graduated with honors. Beatriz recalls, “I felt a little scared by going into all English speaking classes but my teachers all helped me adjust and my ESL class gave me a place to practice my English freely within a community of students who were similar to me.” She is currently attending the University of Southern California with a double major in East Asian Languages and Cultures and International Relations. She would like to become an international translator.
Sagemont also has an International Study Program where highly qualified students join a home stay family and participate in Sagemont’s college prep curriculum. These students usually participate in the ESL program for a period of time and achieve a high level of success at the school. In fact, many choose to stay and graduate with their class.
The Sagemont School offers a college preparatory curriculum and operates two campuses in Weston, Fl. In preschool through the elementary grades, The Sagemont School provides core concepts in a creative environment combined with weekly specials that include science, art, music, Spanish for non-native & native speakers, swimming, PE and media and technology. From middle school through high school graduation, Sagemont students choose from a variety of regular, honors and AP course work. In addition, students share in a networked wireless laptop environment and participate in a comprehensive guidance program for college entrance. Visit The Sagemont School Web site at http://www.sagemont.com/
For more information on The Sagemont School contact Dr. Brent Goldman, President at (954) 389-2454 ext., 305, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.To read more stories about The Sagemont School written by Stacey Bomser go to School News at www.ourcityweston.com