Speaking English vital work skill for area residents

By Tony Parra

Portales and Clovis residents who don’t speak English have access to free educational programs in their communities to help them learn. Instructors in the program say learning English is a vital skill in the workforce.

Instructors hold English as a Second Language classes during the day as well as evenings to help accommodate work schedules.

The classes are taught under the Adult Basic Education program at Clovis Community College. The program also helps students gain their General Educational Development certification.

“All these services are free, paid for by the state and federal governments,” said Mona Lee Norman-Armstrong, Director for the Center of Student Success at CCC. “The classes are not just about learning English, but about preparing the workforce and teaching people how to be self-sufficient.”
Norman-Armstrong said she has seen the number of ESL students increase in eastern New Mexico over the last few years to 300 students.

“There is a much bigger influx of non-native speakers and it has to do with the new industry in the area,”

Norman-Armstrong said. “The evening classes are bigger than they’ve ever been.”

Ruben Tellez has been teaching ESL classes for four years and is an instructor at the Portales Lindsey site. Tellez said he teaches beginning English and has 14 students, while at the same site Becky Lopez teaches five students in the intermediate English class.

Tellez said it’s the highest number he’s seen during his four years of teaching the course in Portales. Tellez said during the course he has 20 minutes set aside to ask students what they want to learn which helps them in their day-to-day life routine.

“I tell people that if they want to advance in their jobs, they need to know how to speak English,” Tellez said. “The classes help them become successful, productive members of the community.”

Norman-Armstrong said in November the instructors will be offering something new to the program. She said they will have instructional VHS tapes that people can check out, learn English through the tapes, and take an exam after one week through the pilot program. Norman-Armstrong said it is geared toward the people who live in rural areas.

She said classes are being offered during the day and in the evenings and daycare is offered at Clovis elementary schools through the school system’s Title I program.
According to Norman-Armstrong, she has seen many young Hispanic females use the day courses to free-up their nights for family.

Norman-Armstrong said there will also be a course in the spring to help people prepare for the U.S. Citizenship test. She said through that course civics is taught.