Hawthorne teacher helps children, parents

By Curt Yeomans


One Hawthorne Elementary School teacher is taking education out of the classroom, and to the people.

Dr. Alan Zoloth, the English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher at Hawthorne, has been spending four days a week doing outreach work with residents of the nearby Hunter Ridge Mobile Home Park.

The work has been with both children and parents for the last three and a half months.

Mondays and Wednesdays are spent helping students, primarily those from Hispanic families, with their homework. Tuesdays and Thursdays, have been spent teaching English to Spanish-speaking parents, who have only been in the United States anywhere from one month to a couple of years.

There are about 300 Hispanic students attending Hawthorne, Zoloth said.

Zoloth said that by helping the children learn to do their homework in English, he's also helping himself at the same time.

"It's helping the children progress," he said. "My ultimate goal is to get these kids out of ESOL."

Zoloth recently completed his first session of English classes for Spanish-speaking parents on Dec. 20, but he expects to start a new session in the fall of 2008. He said the study sessions for the children will continue until April, when the Criterion-Reference Competency Tests (CRCTs) are given in Clayton County Elementary Schools.

The CRCTs, which measure how much a student has learned of the materials outlined in the Georgia Performance Standards, are one of the yardsticks used to determine whether a school makes Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

The study sessions began at the beginning of November, a month and a half after the English classes began for the parents. Each study session lasts an hour and a half. Two lines of tables are set up in the basement of the Hunter Ridge club house. One table is for kindergartners through second-graders. The other line of tables is for third-through-fifth-graders.

The children go over vocabulary and spelling words, math, reading, science and social studies. The majority of work is spent on language arts and math homework.

Zoloth reviews the homework to make sure the children are completing it correctly, but he is assisted by several fourth- and fifth-grade students, all of whom make, either all "A"s, "B"s, or a mixture of both on their work at school.

The student helpers serve two purposes. On the one hand, they allow more students to get assistance during the study sessions. On the other hand, some of them are bilingual and can translate the homework into Spanish for children who speak limited, or no, English.

"I help out because some of these students don't know how to do homework, and I like to help them," said Cindy Villanueva, 10, a fifth-grader at Hawthorne Elementary School. "The best part is they learn how to do homework," she added.

Emily Vazquez, 9, a fourth-grade helper said: "You get to help them see the mistakes they are making."

Precious Simon, 10, a fifth-grade helper, agreed with Vazquez. "I like helping the younger kids with math, because math is a hobby for me. I do it all the time."

Some of the students, who come to study sessions to improve their homework skills, said they were seeing an improvement after just one month of working with Zoloth and his helpers.

Anayeli Salgado, a fourth-grader whose family came to Georgia a couple of years ago from the Mexican state of Guerrero, has attended every study session with her younger brother, Andres, a first-grader.

"We didn't know how to do our homework when we first started coming to the sessions, but it [the sessions] has made school easier because we know how to do it now," she said.