SACRAMENTO, CA - Teacher James Welcome said he understands the confusion faced by English Language Learners (ELL) in his class because he found himself in the same situation when he attended college.
"I was a bilingual student myself at one point," Welcome said. "I attended a university in China so I can sympathize with what they're going through."
Welcome teaches ELL students at Valley High School in south Sacramento where English is a second language for about 900 students.
"About two-thirds of Valley High's population speak a second language. In this classroom alone there are 40 students and they speak eight different languages," Welcome said.
ELL students spend two hours a day in Welcome's classroom learning history and English. Currently, they're studying World War II.
Welcome is constantly on the move around the classroom, checking their work, and giving them tips as they write essays about world leaders who were in power during the war years.
"We do a lot of monitoring," Welcome said. "And students can expect some kind of quiz almost every day so I can make sure they're on task."
For six years Welcome taught in Hong Kong and China before returning to the U.S. to teach in 2005. He spends long hours with students outside of their regular class time.
"I show them how to get through the lunch line. I've taught students how to ride the bus," he explained. "We offer tutoring after school every day and I have 30 to 40 students."
The extra help has led to high social science and history test scores at Valley High.
"Our test scores were number one in the (Elk Grove Unified School) district last year," Welcome said. "And (statewide) we beat out schools like Beverly Hills and Atherton High."
Welcome and his colleagues in the school's bilingual department also make home visits and meet several times a year with the students and their parents.
They have increased the number of ELL students graduating with the prerequisite courses needed to attend college. They help students and parents fill out financial aid and college applications and take them on tours of Sacramento-area colleges.
Welcome said, "I feel good when I go home knowing that I helped make a difference in their lives."
By Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org