English Language Learners and Teachers of OHHS


Sent in by Mrs. Checa

All of the ELD students and teachers posing for a picture.

Here at Oak Hills High School we have a program known as the ELD (English Language Development) department which helps students that have grown up with a different first language develop their English skills. There is about a handful of students on campus that are part of this program and it has helped them immensely with the transition into high school all while trying to learn the English language. These students also contribute to a large part of the diversity on our campus, which allows for this aspect in our community to be more appreciated.

Lourdes Checa, who has been teaching ELD for 12 years now, speaks on how she feels towards being able to teach this department and also be the chair of it.

“I like it, I like it a lot and I enjoy it. I feel like I identify with the kids because I came to the U.S. in 1998. I was only 18 [years old] and I did not speak english at all. [The ELD students] identify with me and I understand what they are going through,”

Mesen and Checa posing for a picture together in the classroom.

This program is a part of the common core standards as the department itself has its own standards for the students participating in it. It is a mandatory class that all newcomers, people that are new to the country and speak a different language other than english, have to take in order to be able to improve their english speaking, reading, and writing skills. Also in order for them to graduate from high school they have to take a state test known as an English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPAC). Once they have passed this test, depending on what they score, they are then able to go into a higher level english class.

“It is difficult because at the same time we are studying and we are doing schoolwork,” Martha Soto-Lizarraga, ELD and sophomore student here at OHHS talks about how the language barrier can be quite difficult for her.

This class also does not replace any of the normal core classes that every high school student has to take. These students are still required to not only take this class and develop their english skills but they also have to keep up with the work in their normal high school classes, despite the fact that they are still learning the normal english language and are adapting to a new country. This ELD class allows for the students to be around people that are like family to them while also giving them the opportunity to work alongside people who are helping them prepare for their ELPAC tests.

“This program is like another family because they are so close to me and we are all close to each other,” Karen Alba, former ELD and senior student, who has passed her ELPAC test and is now a teacher’s assistant for the ELD class, speaks on how much she enjoys the program.

Karen then continues to speak about what one of the most difficult things was for her, which was when she first started out in the program, “Probably not understanding, like at the beginning what people would say and thinking that they were talking bad about me and not being able to do my work for my classes.”

Lourdes Checa
ELD students working on their classwork.

Since many of these students are new to the country, and not just new to the school system, their transition is a lot harder than what people assume. Some of these teenagers are adapting to a completely new lifestyle that is a lot different, some without their parents even here, and they are adapting from a new lifestyle that is completely different from what they have been used to in their childhood. Aside from that they have to keep up with all the normal school work that an average high school student who already knows the english language has as well.

“They can’t adjust to the system, it is so hard for them, they are here with the mentality from their country and it is really hard to adjust to the new system,” Yesdi Mesen, translator and ELD teacher/assistant at OHHS, explains. “It is a good program especially with the counselors and Mrs. Checa.”

This ELD program has allowed for all of the students in it to create their own community within themselves that not only offers them help but comfort as well. Many of the students in this class can tend to miss their home a lot and are here for the chance to learn english and get their high school diploma. This department gives them the extra push forward to helping them have a well educated future and also a culturally diverse community that they can call family.

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