8/10/2014 10:23:00 PM Westfield offers English as a Second Language classes
Westfield's free ESL classes have been very helpful for students, Hector Martinez, Felipe Ortiz, and Alfredo Gonzales. The three men are joined by about 20 other classmates each week. The Times photo by Hannah Troyer
Volunteer teacher Cheri Davis discusses what the group of ESL students would like to learn at the coming week's meetings. The Times photo by Hannah Troyer
By Hannah Troyer
The Spanish-speaking community in Westfield now has a place to learn English.
Every Wednesday evening, six to eight volunteers from around the city come together to teach an English as a Second Language class.
City officials approached Washington-Westfield Schools elementary school teacher Cheri Davis in March after they heard about Davis' outreach program that she was already conducting on her own. For five years, Davis has gone to various churches, homes, and restaurants to teach individuals who wanted to learn English.
"God told me one night to do it. It was a faith thing," Davis said. "I was teaching the third grade at a building. I went and watched someone teach ESL to little kids and felt like it was something I was meant to do."
Since May, Davis, along with six to eight other volunteers, meet at the Westfield Parks & Recreation building. Classes. Classes are 90 minutes and free of charge. Participants can register online or just show up at a class.
Hector Martinez, a 14-year resident of Westfield, has been attending the weekly classes since the program started. Martinez, 37, is an electrician for a Noblesville company. Because of the ESL program, he says he now feels important to his hometown.
"I think it's awesome the city (created the program)," Martinez said. "I wanted to learn more. I heard this program had really nice teachers. They don't act like teachers. They act like friends."
There is no set curriculum for the class. The volunteers sit down with attendees to figure out what they would like to learn. The classes have focused on everyday vocabulary so the individuals are able to communicate easier with people throughout their day.
In the months of weekly classes the teachers have covered verbs, vowels, and everyday activities like going to the bank, movies, or a restaurant.
To practice ordering food, volunteers even set up an ice cream bar and attendees had to tell their teachers what toppings they would like on their ice cream.
First-time attendees of the class have to take a test to determine which group level they will be placed. Depending on the score, they will be placed in one of three groups.
While it is a class and can be challenging for those learning the English language, individuals like Alfredo Gonzales, 41, Westfield, would like the classes to be longer and more frequent.
"Everything feels like 30 seconds," Gonzales said. "I came because I wanted to learn how to write English. It's hard to learn how to write because we never practiced it before. They are very nice to me here."
Davis is more than pleased that the city decided to take this step to help residents learn English. She believes the classes are meeting a need that has not been addressed or considered by many.
The Hispanic/Latino population in Westfield is about 5.8 percent, or 1,746 residents, just a little less than the state average of 6.4 percent, according to the U.S. Census. The median age is 24. Westfield has the 50th highest Hispanic/Latino population in the state, higher than any other city or town in Hamilton County. The county ranks 30th in Hispanic/Latino population in the state. Westfield-Washington Schools ranks 61st highest in Hispanic/Latino population among Indiana school districts, also the highest in Hamilton County.
"A lot of people don't realize that our student population is so diverse," Davis said. "People think it's Hamilton County, so it's not diverse. I think as long as we can teach the community that, we can make people more aware."
Davis and other volunteers believe they are giving Westfield residents a chance to share their gifts and talents with the community who may not have ever been able.
Felipe Ortiz, 58, said the volunteers' belief is true. A long-time Westfield resident, Ortiz has been attending the classes because he would like to understand the proper way to communicate with those around him. He would also like to volunteer more in the community, with his new English knowledge.
Ortiz is happy that the ESL program has been put into place by the city.
"There is a very large Latino population here," Ortiz said. "Sometime we don't know what the city is doing for us. It's important that they have eyes in our community now. We are learning that they would like to be close to us and grow together."
Want to go? What: City of Westfield offering English as a Second Language classes.
When, where: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, Westfield Parks and Recreation, 330 E. Main St., Westfield.
Info: www.westfield.in.gov/parks, program coordinator Brittany Goger, (317) 804-3183, email@example.com