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August 26, 2009 > Summer writing class motivates teacher and students

Summer writing class motivates teacher and students

By Miriam G. Mazliach
Photos By Courtesy of Sheletha Randell

"I absolutely loved it," says Sheletha "Shelly" Randell, about her summer spent teaching writing to primarily Korean/English speaking students. Her 40 young students, in grades four through seven, were enrolled in the JEI Learning Center's Summer Academy classes held at New Life Church in Fremont.

Randell first became interested in teaching a number of years ago when she began volunteering at her daughter's school. With encouragement, she decided to pursue a teaching degree and earned her credential and an ESL endorsement through the University of Phoenix in Arizona.

In Arizona, she volunteered at a Women's Resource Center, teaching English, followed by the Gary Tang Adult Education Center, where she taught 21 students from eight different countries.

Randell, teaching for six years, moved to Fremont to be near her daughter who is attending San Jose State University. She saw an ad for English teachers from the JEI Learning Center and was hired to teach a six-week writing course to the English language-learners. The classes were in 90 minute blocks of time, two days per week.

Focusing on the development of different types of writing and complex sentence structures, Randell says, "I wanted my students to appreciate writing as much as I did."

For one of the writing assignments, Randell asked her students to write a letter to someone in the public eye, requesting a response. Surprisingly, rather than picking celebrities as she had expected, most of her students wrote to politicians, stating their thoughtful opinions.

According to Randell, "The students were extremely motivated, and there were no discipline problems."

She met with the parents before the session started. Says Randell, "They really wanted their kids to have a "meaty curriculum" in order to learn and improve their writing."

Randell went by the California State Standards and for each grade level she was teaching, developed lesson plans to teach specific skills. Materials and books, provided to the students, were included in the program's fees.

"What surprised me most was the family community atmosphere. At lunchtime, I would eat with the students and discovered all the delicious and different Korean foods. I've even learned to say "Gam sa ham ni da," which means "thank you."

The students and Randell also had a great time on their field trip to the Exploratorium and Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

"I'd love to be invited back next year to teach again at Summer Academy," says Randell. In the meantime, she is looking for a full-time teaching position and has even applied for overseas opportunities.

Randell chokes up with emotion when discussing the students and her experiences. "I just wish that every teacher could have experienced what I did. To have a class like that was a godsend."

"I've never really taught young people who really wanted to learn so much," she explains. "They really did it themselves and taught me. I was only the facilitator. I just pointed and they were off and running."

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