Two American ESL Teachers Unite to Build an English Course for Children in Jerusalem
JACC’s English program created a new course this past spring that focuses on informal English lessons for children and teenagers through games and activities. Playing the game “Taboo” in English, for example, is just one way students can improve their vocabulary while still having fun.
English Program Co-Coordinators Cassie Kramer and Yael Elbaz, who oversee the chug (educational activity for a group of children), have a lot of experience in education. Cassie came to Jerusalem two years ago from the United States. She wanted to work with a community in need of language instruction. In the U.S., she was an English as a second language (ESL) teacher in Philadelphia and New York City. In both these places, she worked in underserved communities. As 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.
This past spring, the children’s “chug” consisted of three middle school students. Cassie says she understands why many parents have a desire for their children to learn English.
“They have a lot of hopes and dreams,” she said. “For a lot of them, learning English is part of that because of the possibilities it offers.”
In the spring, while Cassie was designing curriculum and teaching, Yael began working on registering students and coordinating classes for the summer. Yael, also an American, came to Israel in college to study education. Afterwards, she taught English for several years in the Israeli school system. Learning English is one of the vital skills she thinks asylum-seeking children can find at JACC.
“English is one of the most important [languages] in terms of advancement,” Yael said. Across many employment sectors, it is useful for candidates to speak English. The younger students are, she said, the easier it is for them to learn languages and the better chance they will have at becoming fluent. Additionally, Yael added that students gain a confidence when they learn English that extends beyond a belief in their ability to communicate and can help them succeed in other aspects of their lives.
This chug would not be possible without a dedicated volunteer teacher. Noam Gitin led the chug this spring and created and designed activities for the students every week. Despite her busy schedule, she made this chug a priority.
"Working with these strong, young adults was truly inspiring, said Noam. "Each one of them aspires to greatness. They are focused on making something of themselves while appreciating where they came from and the sacrifices that their parents made for them."
In addition to the “chugs” coming in the fall, JACC is currently offering a summer camp for asylum-seeking children that includes an English class. With more funding and resources, JACC hopes to expand the program in the coming year to include another “chug” for younger students and to grow further by adding programming for preschool aged children.
“Anything that we can provide them help with, that’s what we should be doing,” said Yael. “If it’s helping the kids with English, let’s help the kids with English.”
This month, JACC is raising money so that JACC can continue to provide asylum-seeking children with meaningful and educational programming, including mentoring and tutoring, that will help them grow and mature. As of now, 65% of the asylum-seeking community’s children in Jerusalem do not receive services from JACC because of limited resources.
Plese help us expand our children’s programming by contributing to our crowdfunding campaign.