Church-based English-as-a-Second-Language ministries don’t have to end because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they must adapt and remain flexible, a statewide literacy ministry leader insists.
“We’re building an airplane while we’re flying and having to revise along the way,” said Karen Peiser, ESL workshop coordinator with Literacy Connexus and director of ESL at Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo.
Trying new approaches
Around the state, churches with ESL ministries are experimenting with new approaches—not only to teach English literacy, but also to maintain contact with students during a difficult time, she noted.
The best approach for any group depends on the specific students, Peiser noted. International students at a university likely will have ready access to online instruction and be familiar with it. Students in low-income areas that lack Internet access may need individualized coaching through mail, texts, phone calls and in-person visits conducted in a safe environment.
“We want to help churches move forward,” even in the midst of a pandemic, said Lester Meriwether, executive director of Literacy Connexus.
Granted, some aspects of literacy ministry remain on hold for the immediate future, Peiser acknowledged. The intensive TEX (Teaching English with Excellence) workshops Literacy Connexus typically schedules don’t lend themselves to social distancing, she noted.
Sharing ideas, providing resources
However, while hands-on training events are suspended temporarily, learning opportunities for literacy volunteers can continue as Literacy Connexus creates idea-sharing platforms and makes resources easily accessible, she noted.
For example, a recent entry on the Literacy Connexus website provides ESL teachers suggestions on distance learning from the Immigrant Learning Center.
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Another page on the site offers a series of links to introduce ESL teachers to tools such as Zoom, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and TalkingPoints that can help them stay connected with students.
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