ESL for Adults at Archuleta County Education Center

By Lynell Wiggers
Special to The SUN

Imagine living in another country and not being able to understand anyone or speak the language.

The loss of self-confidence is particularly difficult for well-educated individuals who are highly respected in their country before relocating. Even if you have considerable formal language training, colloquialisms, accent and culture can still be a barrier to easy communication.

Archuleta County Education Center has the only English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for adults in our county. If you or someone you know would like to improve English language skills, our instructors, Rosalind Marshall and Susan Lawrence, are eager and willing to help.

The need for English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Archuleta County is particularly high because of our historic ties with Mexico. With federal funding from the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), passed in 1962, the Colorado Department of Education has allocated funds for Archuleta County Education Center to offer ESL for over 15 years. ESL programs supported by AEFLA must adhere to strict state and federal guidelines, including standardized tests. The system is based on competencies, which encompass more than 300 essential life skills. People need these skills to be successful members of communities and the workforce. Test performance measures improvement in individual’s progress over time.

Although most of the students are native Spanish speakers, we have had students from China, France, Germany and Russia, and a student from the Ukraine is currently enrolled.

The goal for our ESL program is to provide basic instruction in English, emphasizing our customs and culture. Success in the ESL program leads to improved job skills, integration into the local community and a clearer communication with their childrens’ teachers. We have recently incorporated preparation for the citizenship interview, for those students applying for citizenship. This smaller group meets separately before the English classes, and studies history, government, civics and U.S. culture, in English.

Some ESL students have a goal of improving their employability or getting a higher level job, some transfer into our GED program after reaching the higher levels of English, and many want to become more involved with their children’s education. Parent students in the ESL class are great role models for their children, and learning becomes a family goal. Some of our higher-level students have degrees in their native country, and act as mentors for the lower-level students.

We have two levels of instruction this year, basic and intermediate/advanced. Both groups are combined into one large group at the beginning of the class for conversation, then split into level-appropriate lessons. We have highly qualified instructors with years of experience with ESL students. Susan Lawrence is new to our staff this year, coming to us with several years’ experience in teaching English to K-12 non-English speakers. Rosalind Marshall, herself an immigrant from Great Britain, returns for her fourth year of ESL instruction at the Education Center.

If you know someone who needs to learn English as a new language, you can do them and our community a good service by suggesting that they enroll in ESL classes. These classes are offered 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday, with free child care provided. There is a $15 annual registration fee, but all other materials and supplies are free.

For more information, visit the website at, where you can register for all classes and pay with PayPal, or come by the Education Center at the corner of 4th and Lewis streets, downtown. You can also call 264-2835.

This story was posted on December 13, 2012.