As an ELL teacher, Chadron Public Schools’ Cheryl Welch helps students navigate a new culture and a new language. Most importantly, however, she teaches new students how to survive in an American classroom. For students learning English, it takes 7 to 10 years to gain a mastery of academic terms.
“Our job is to help improve their speaking skills, their listening skills, their reading skills and their writing skills,” Welch said. “They need all of those [skills] in order to make it in the American culture.”
In Chadron, nearly 40 students are from the Marshall Islands and as Welch gets to know them, she starts to understand their cultural perspective. Often, it differs dramatically from the American culture, she says. “They’re surrounded by things that they really have never been exposed to before,” Welch said. “You’re the person at the school who the kids are building the closest relationship with.”
Because students’ previous experience varies, ELL teachers like Welch make a huge difference in the lives of new students and families.
Watch Cheryl Welch in our feature documentary Seeds of Hope.