When Cassie Kramer moved to Jerusalem, she was looking to continue volunteering at a place that worked with a community in need. Cassie, a native of the United States, worked as a teacher for students learning English as a second language, or ESL, in Philadelphia and New York City. In both these places, she worked in underserved communities. After moving to Jerusalem two years ago, she found JACC and jumped right in. Today, she is JACC’s co-coordinator of the English program. Her responsibilities include creating a curriculum for each proficiency level, organizing language classes for students of various age levels and language abilities, and, of course, teaching.
The cornerstone of JACC’s English program, as Cassie says, is its adult language classes. Students in the program leave with better language skills and more confidence in their ability to use English to help them navigate their daily lives. This year, the center had 32 English students during the year and has a current enrollment of 37 students for the summer months.
When Cassie first started at JACC, she taught a small class of students who were preparing to take an English-language proficiency exam. While most of JACC’s classes focus on conversational English, this class was geared toward students preparing to enter a university setting who wanted to improve their academic language skills. One of her students, Monim, passed the entrance English language exam and will be attending Hebrew University in the fall.
This past year, Cassie taught a women’s beginner English class. While the women attended class, volunteers at the center provided care for their children in another room. These mothers, many of whom work in addition to raising their children, came twice a week to work on their English skills.
“Just being able to see their commitment to come week after week means we are offering something that is really needed,” Cassie said.
And since October when the class began, the progress is clear.
In May, Cassie found herself in a difficult situation: she was trying to help new students register for summer classes without knowing a lot of Hebrew or any Tigrinya, a language spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia. While she was having difficulty communicating with a potential student, one of her students from the women’s class jumped in to help. Using the English she had learned throughout the year, Amleset was able to translate from Tigrinya to English and back to encourage this student and others to sign up for classes.
Like many of Cassie’s students in the women’s class, at the start of the year Amleset spoke very little English.
“When the women came in, many were not comfortable speaking basic phrases,” Cassie said.
As one of Cassie’s most dedicated students, Amleset came to class every week to improve her language skills. Many of the women in this class are very dedicated to learning English, not just Amleset. Cassie said she can see the improvement in their language skills since the start of the year.
“Now, they are so much more confident speaking English in their daily lives,” she said.
Cassie sat and watched the English language in action as Amleset used the skills she had been working on all year. She said it was amazing to seeing her student use her newfound ability to connect asylum seekers with the community center, a place where they can learn a new language.