Some ESL teachers worried distance learning changes could set back students

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — More than half of Rockford Public School students will be learning from home this fall. But some teachers worry their lessons won’t translate. That’s the case for those teaching English as a Second Language or ESL.

One ESL teacher says she’s worried her students will fall behind.

“It’s very concerning. I think it’s a lose-lose situation,” said Kathleen Henschen.

Kathleen Henschen is an English as a Second Language teacher at Johnson Elementary School. With more than half of district 205 families opting for full-time remote learning, Henschen is one of 32 ESL teachers who now have to teach general ed, which includes math, science, and social studies online.

Henschen says she hasn’t taught that in years.

“We don’t know the curriculum well, because we see kids from kinder through fifth grade. We’re not experts at all of the curriculum in every grade,” Henschen added.

The district plans to match ESL students with ESL teachers. However, Henschen believes that will hurt them in the long run.

“I’m one that I want to do a good job, in whatever it is I want to do, and to be placed in this position, I feel unprepared,” she explained. “In writing, it might show that they’re getting supports, but it’s not the supports they truly need as English Language learners.”

RPS 205 Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarrett says the district had no choice but it do it that way.

“One of the unfortunate byproducts of the work we’re trying to do is when we allow families to make a choice,” Dr. Jarrett said. “We needed to balance our teaching staff with our families’ choice.”

Dr. Jarrett says Wednesdays during the school year will be offered to students who need extra help. There’s even measures in place to help before school starts next week.

“One of the things we’re going to have in place is an instructional coach in every building. We’re also going to dedicate one of our top teaching experts in remote learning is going to be spending three straight days with that group before we start the school year,” Dr. Jarrett added.

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