English as a Second Language (ESL) students celebrate summer achievements

By Chanda Temple

Birmingham City Schools

The summer program gives students academic support so that when they return to school, they will go in with a stronger grasp of all academic subjects. (Chanda Temple photo).
The summer program gives students academic support so that when they return to school, they will go in with a stronger grasp of all academic subjects. (Photo by Chanda Temple).

More than 90 students in the district’s English as a Second Language program attended classes this summer to improve their academic performance in English and math.

On Thursday, June 30 at Tuggle Elementary, these students participated in a closing ceremony, which included a parade of costumes and dances from nearly 20 countries, authentic Latino food and awards for summer achievements.

One award recipient of note was sixth grader Jeffery Serrano.

English as a Second Language student Jeffery Serrano with teacher Tamika Lamb. Jeffery received an award for Most Improved in Math. (Photo by Chanda Temple).
English as a Second Language student Jeffery Serrano with teacher Tamika Lamb. Jeffery received an award for Most Improved in Math. (Photo by Chanda Temple).

When Jeffery enrolled in the summer program in 2015, he tended to duck down in his seat as a way to become “invisible” when the teacher sought math answers from the class.

But after Jeffery had gone through a full year of the ESL program during the regular school year and returned to the three-week summer program in June, ESL teacher Tamika Lamb saw a different Jeffery.

One day in class when they were discussing fractions, he immediately figured out how to solve the problem. It was like a light bulb had gone off, Lamb recalled.

“Now, when he does fractions, his hand shoots up in the air,” Lamb said. “And even if he doesn’t have the right answer, I’m just proud that he raises his hand and tells me what he thinks.”

Native dances, songs and a parade of costumes from nearly 20 countries were on display as the English as a Second Language program concluded last month. (Chanda Temple photos).
Native dances, songs and a parade of costumes from nearly 20 countries were on display as the English as a Second Language program concluded last month. (Photo by Chanda Temple).

A victory like Jeffery is just one example of what organizers not only see in the summer with ESL students, but throughout the year.

During the regular school year, about 900 Birmingham students are in the ESL program. Students new to America knowing limited or no English, are enrolled. The program helps students make major strides in English and other areas.

The summer program gives students academic support so that when they return to school, they will go in with a stronger grasp of all academic subjects. This summer, students not only worked on math and English, but they also studied human anatomy and democracy. The program is headed by Dr. Rosalva Ballin.