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50 Nations, 40 Languages Represented at Gonzaga’s 19th Summer Language Program

Some of the 300 Spokane-area immigrant and refugee learners from preschool through age 80 at Gonzaga. (Photo by Erin Welch Meuer)

Empowers Local Immigrant, Refugee Students

SPOKANE, Wash. – Some 300 Spokane-area immigrant and refugee learners from preschool through age 80 representing over 50 countries and speaking more than 40 languages are taking part in Gonzaga University’s 19th annual Summer Language Program on campus.

Erin Welch Meuer, a teacher in the program and a Gonzaga alumna, takes a selfie with students. She now teaches in the ESL program at the Community Colleges of Spokane’s Institute for Extended Learning.

The free three-week program – a partnership between Gonzaga’s Master of Arts in Teaching-English-as-a-Second-Language (MA/TESL) Program, a School’s Out Washington Refugee Impact Grant and Spokane Public Schools – runs July 10-28, offering intensive ESL and English-as-a-Foreign Language teacher training in the mornings.

Twenty-four current and future teachers in Gonzaga’s MA/TESL & MIT Programs learn theory and methods of teaching second languages from 8:30-11:30 a.m. five days a week and practice what they learn in English language camps from 1-3 p.m. A half-dozen or so Gonzaga undergraduates are also assisting.

Analee Scott, a rising senior English major at Gonzaga, works alongside MA/TESL student Emtenan Agily from Saudi Arabia in a kindergarten classroom. James Hunter, associate professor and director of the MA/TESL Program, says Scott praised the program’s welcoming atmosphere and opportunities for growth.

“It’s a very enriching environment for these students to learn about teaching,” Hunter said.

The program has grown steadily from eight students in its first year, 1999. The students learn from teachers from the SPS English Language Development Program and teachers in training from Gonzaga in nine classrooms.

This year’s program also includes one classroom for preschool students and another one for adult learners. The classrooms accommodate the students’ varying grade levels and proficiencies in English language. The high school classroom is the largest with some 50 students representing 15 different languages.

Hunter says the program builds bridges between students’ disparate cultural experiences and academic expectations while offering Gonzaga’s teacher-in-training students tremendous opportunities to develop their classroom skills.

“Some of these kids are the only students in their normal classroom settings who don’t speak English well or who look unlike others,” Hunter said. “This camp is a very affirming community for them.”

For the past three years, the program has implemented STEM curricula in its classrooms as the content for academic English language instruction – including Lego robotics, 3-D design and printing, and forensic investigations. This year, donors provided funds for unique topics in every classroom – including video editing, the ocean, and the engineering design process.

The camp includes speakers of Amharic, Arabic, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Chinese, Chuuk, Congolese, Dari, French, Ghanaian, Haitian Creole, Karen, Kazakhstani, Korean, Kyrgyzstani, Liberian, Malay, Marshallese, Moldavian, Nepalese, Pashto, Rumanian, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Sudanese, Swahili, Taiwanese, Thai, Tigrinya, Ukrainian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Events July 27-28

  • On Thursday, July 27 from 1-3 p.m., the program will host a career and college fair in the Hemmingson Center Ballroom, with representatives from local fire and police departments, health professions, and higher education to include Whitworth University, Washington State University, Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga.
  • On Friday July 28, families of the students will attend a resource fair with SNAP (Spokane Neighborhood Action Partners) and local food banks from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Hemmingson Center with a graduation ceremony to follow from 1-3 p.m.

For more information, please contact James Hunter at hunter@gonzaga.edu.

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