Memorial UMC has partnered with Austin ISD and Manos de Cristo Dental Center to offer free ESL classes to parents of Harris Elementary School on the East Side of Austin. The elementary school has a 97.6 percent economically disadvantaged population, as well as a large population of refugees from Africa and Southeast Asia.
The partnership came after continued relations between Memorial UMC and Harris Elementary School, located across the street. The church has already been helping the local school with beginning-of-the-year teacher gift bags and school supply donations.
Carol Logan, the church’s liaison to the neighboring school, made the effort to call organizations after receiving a tip from the school counselor that parents have been requesting Adult ESL classes. Logan found Manos de Cristo, a low-cost dental service that has also added citizenship, basic computer, and ESL classes.
Educational Director of Manos de Cristo Karen Green reached out to Austin ISD Department of Adult Education to help provide a teacher for a potential Adult ESL class. Austin ISD agreed to find the teacher as long as the Adult ESL class was free to all participants.
The four organizations came into unity: Harris would find the parents that needed the ESL classes, Austin ISD provided the teacher, Manos de Cristo provided resources and organization, Memorial UMC would provide the space and child-care. A twice-weekly ESL class takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Memorial UMC added language lab using computers loaned by Manos de Cristo so that parents may have extra practice. The ESL teacher uses this lab to track the progress of the students.
Ms. Amanda Pincock was added as the ESL teacher for the language-learning parents of Harris Elementary. She incorporates field trips, which included a recent scavenger hunt at the local grocery market using small group learning. She encourages her students to bring food to share with the group. Her teaching style has been well-received.
Memorial UMC plans to host a party for the families of Harris Elementary to celebrate the end of the semester.
“We don’t have trained teachers in our congregation,” said Rev. Cynthia Kepler-Karre of Memorial UMC. “We knew that the need was present, and so we decided that the best way to respond was to leverage what we did have—interest and space—and walk alongside with others. We hope that these partnerships might spur our creativity as well in reaching out with evangelistic and discipleship opportunities. We are dedicated to building relationships with individuals, with families, and with organizations in our mission field.”