Raphael is not the only hero in this picture! No, not talking about the Hulk either (he has anger issues), but the lady in red is a super hero. Her name is Eloisa. Eleven years ago, she came to the United States from her home country of Mexico in order to assure her two children could have a good education. Her salary here has sent her daughter to college to become an industrial engineer. Her son is a Certified Public Accountant. She has not seen them since she came to live here but her daughter calls every morning at 6:00, and her son calls every evening.
Growing up in Mexico, her family could not afford to send her to school when she was little, so she stayed at home until she was 9. That’s when she went to work for a woman in another town. She lived in the woman’s house and helped with chores and taking care of the woman’s young son. When he started school, he would come home with papers and books and would teach Eloisa what he had learned. Over the years, that’s how she learned the alphabet, to read and write, and do math. Pretty amazing, really. She worked for that woman (whom she said was very nice) for 22 years. It was after she had married and had a second child that she stopped working. She came to the U.S. when her youngest was 14 and has had a number of jobs including cleaning a school in the evenings and working at McDonalds.
As a child, she saw piñatas being sold in the market and after studying them a bit, she decided that she could make those herself with a little experimentation. Four months later, she produced her first successful piñata which was a vaquero (or in the U. S. a cowboy) with boots, a sombrero and pistols. The vaquero, who was a present for her sister, made her very popular locally for people wanting piñatas. From cowboys she moved on to purple dinosaurs and soon it became a business.
Eloisa has been making piñatas for 30 years. Those piñatas have been sold in Oaxaca, Veracruz, and Chihuahua in Mexico. Now she is making them in Hot Springs. Her shop is at 1231 Central Avenue, Suite A 10. She does not make as many purple dinosaurs, but she does about any shape a customer would want.
AND she has continued her education. For more than a year, she has been learning English as a Second Language at the Literacy Council of Garland County. Her amazing tutor is Claudia Jones who is a retired English teacher. They meet twice a week at 119 Hobson Avenue to practice her new language. With all the determination she has had to succeed in life and with all her adventures, there will be no stopping her.
The Literacy Council of Garland County, Arkansas is a non-profit organization striving to enhance success in daily life by building literacy skills. Our classes are free. Our tutors work for free. We teach basic reading skills and assist with Math comprehension. As long as we receive contributions, we plan to share wonderful stories about our students like Eloisa.
That is what we do at 119 Hobson Avenue. Join us by contributing either financially or by volunteering or both! We will also accept students interested and wanting to learn. (501)624-7323
A Tutor’s Perspective from Claudia
What I Get Out of Tutoring
From second grade on, I “played school” all the time. (That and begged my parents for a horse.) One Christmas, my mother gave me a chalkboard with a beautiful, smooth wooden frame. How I loved writing lessons for my imaginary students on that blackboard! In sixth grade, my best friend and I held our own summer school on weekday mornings for a small group of neighborhood kids, complete with a few lessons (of course), crafts, recess, story time, and snack time with KoolAid and cookies.
Fast forward ten years, and I was teaching (without certification) in a small classroom at a “boys’ ranch” in California for kids with behavior problems. That experience inspired me to return to school for my teaching credentials. After teaching for a few years in California, then several more in Idaho, my husband and I moved to Arkansas with our new son. When our son entered school, I returned to the classroom where I taught sixth grade literacy for the next 25 years. It was a job I enjoyed, each year and each class being different but with the same challenge – to try and convince my students that reading and writing can be really fun! I couldn’t convince them all, but I gave it my best and had fun doing it!
Believe it or not, my last two years in the classroom were among the best. One of my “old” students had returned as a teacher herself, and we worked closely together on a team and had a lot of fun. We worked well together – I had years of experience, loved trying new things, and she had enthusiasm and was more tech savvy than I. Almost four years since I retired, she and I still keep in touch. (She’s the one who got me started on texting!) I am surprised by how often I run into old students, some well into their 30’s now, who come up to me in a store or somewhere to say hello. Most will want to tell me about some particular activity they remember from their year in my classroom. It makes my day every time.
To be honest, when I turned 65, I was ready and happy to retire. (No more getting up to a 5:00 alarm! No more paperwork.) I have found my days to be full somehow, even without a job to go to five days a week. And yet, after two years of relaxing, learning to weave, and traveling a bit, I felt something was missing. It wasn’t too hard to figure out the problem: I missed teaching! I didn’t want to work the five days a week (and evenings and weekends) that I had for all those years, but I needed to feel useful again. When a friend mentioned tutoring at the Literacy Council, it seemed like the perfect solution to filling that void in my life.
After working for a year and a half with my three Hispanic students, I am pleased (and sometimes surprised) that they keep coming back for more. I have learned, and am reminded regularly, as I try to explain and teach the ins and outs of English, that learning our language is really hard! I had taught, almost exclusively, kids who grew up speaking English. I could explain things to them and they would understand, for the most part, what I was trying to say. They were familiar with how sentences were put together, used usually-correct verb tenses without thinking, and my job was more one of fine-tuning their skills and introducing new ideas.
With my ESL students, it’s been an entirely different adventure! I do a lot of pantomiming to go along with explanations, a lot of repetition, and (more than I like to admit) I turn to Google Translate for help. We laugh a lot, and my students never fail to thank me for my time as they leave after class. That’s been one huge difference! These students are here by choice, because they really want to learn. (I would be lying if I said that the same was true for many sixth graders.)
Over the many hours I’ve spent tutoring, I have learned about my students’ pasts, their families, their likes and dislikes. We get sidetracked sometimes and discuss things besides the lessons. I have gained a huge amount of respect for them all, taking on this task of learning a new language at this point in their lives. They tell me they want to be able to communicate with more people who come into their lives, to fit in better as part of the society they have chosen to live in. They do this on top of working hard at jobs (actually multiple jobs for two of them) to support their families. Learning English is important to them, and as a result, teaching them is important to me.
Progress is slower than I would like, but I have to remind myself that we only meet one or two days a week for a little over an hour. In addition, despite my years in the classroom, I don’t always feel absolutely confident in how I am teaching my students. I have a curriculum suggested to me when I first started, but it’s not enough. I supplement with materials from the Literacy Council shelves and ones I create at home. Luckily, the internet is loaded with ideas and activities to use! And still, I’m not sure I’m “doing it right.” My job is a bit daunting! English is so hard, much harder when you see it from the point of view of someone who doesn’t speak it. It’s been an eye-opening experience in a number of ways, but also a fulfilling one.