by Christine Gartner, Board Vice President for Project Libertad and English Language Development teacher, Norristown Area School District, email@example.com
Teaching students English who speak another language at home has been my passion for over 20 years! Watching my students blossom from shy and unsure into fully integrated students in the school’s culture is really rewarding and something to see. I enjoy sharing not only their new language, but also our culture and their part in it. Students bring their knowledge, culture, dreams, and often - trauma - to their new school. Teachers need a variety of skills and strategies to assist their students.
It is the responsibility of schools to ease the transition and assist in their learning. However, I have found over the years that schools do not have the right tools to reach our new ELD (English Language Development) students in very subtle ways. Specifically, I have experienced frustrations in helping my students in the areas of mental health and social issues. For years, I struggled with finding help for my students and their families but often ran into challenges in inability to access certain resources or a huge waiting line while my student needed immediate help. Many organizations had no language assistance or knowledge of new immigrants and their needs. Often I was turned away and told they didn’t know where else to suggest to connect in our community.
When Project Libertad came to my school, I finally found a partner who really understood what my students needed! New immigrants have their own very specific needs as students and often general resources can’t address these needs. Project Libertad can provide what school districts just can’t for many reasons. Now, they are my partner for mental health, a weekly club where students have their own community, and access to resources that are specific to immigrant youth and their families. There is no other organization in our area right now that can provide what my students need! We have come to depend on Project Libertad to support our new students and have seen incredible gains since our partnership began.
In addition, the Professional Development training for teachers has expanded knowledge with the staff that also have interactions with my students. This has not only aided my job frustrations, but also expanded something even more incredible - more allies for our students to rely on when the teachers are taught what new immigrant students need and where they come from. Teachers have reported to me a new level of empathy when they attended a professional development session with Project Libertad - specifically a deeper understanding of common traumas that our students experience and strategies gained on how to assist them. Again, there has been no other training like this that is specific to our students in our area. We need this partnership in order to serve our new students and their families in the most respectful and supportive ways.
Project Libertad has provided for the needs I have been searching for and I value our partnership. Finally, I found an organization that understands my students, their families and provides support. I was so impressed that when I was offered a chance to help I said “yes”! I joined the Board and have been part of an incredible team that is ensuring the future with Project Libertad.
Interested? Come join us! Contact us and see how you can help my students and me! We will find the right fit for you.