ELL Instructors, Ana Beck and Robin Hedges

ELL Instructors Support Students in Learning Industry Language

“We all figure out what a student needs, and even if we don't know how to do it, we find someone who does.” – Robin Hedges, ELL Instructor for the Reno Campus

Preparing Oklahoma’s students to enter the workforce means making sure they fully understand the language of the industry. But this learning process can be more difficult for some.

Francis Tuttle Technology Center offers many resources to support students, and this includes English Language Learner (ELL) instructors. These educators assist students whose primary language at home is one other than English or students who are bilingual.

Robin Hedges, who works on the Reno Campus, and Ana Beck, who rotates between Rockwell, Portland, and Danforth, fulfill the individual needs of the students they serve. In the last school year, there were 137 high school students at the Reno Campus who were bilingual or ELL.

Some industry language can be difficult to understand, even for people who speak English all day, every day. ELL students are determined to understand so they have no problems finding a successful career.

“The students are really invested,” Beck said. “They see the need and it’s also aligned with their passion. Their vocabulary, what they’re learning, the expressions and phrases and words they use; they know it is all going to be functional outside of school and better their communication.”

On the Reno Campus, Hedges works mostly with large groups of students in specific programs, focusing on academic vocabulary, reading comprehension, and study and test-taking skills. She also collaborates with the campus intervention team – Special Services Advisor Jessica Findley and Educational Enhancement Instructor Jill Cole ­ – to assist students who are struggling.

Certification exams can be a particular struggle for ELL students, Hedges said. This year specifically, she wanted to focus on helping students overcome the language hurdle in Pre-Nursing exams.

Hedges and the intervention team assisted students working on their Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification. Through this team effort, all but one student passed the certification exam on the first attempt.

“In all my years of teaching, I have never had that many students buy into learning,” Hedges said. “It just gives me chills, because it’s for them. It’s for them and their future careers.”

Beck supports program training with by assisting students with the academic and technical vocabulary they need to know. This includes writing and reading comprehension, pronunciation training, translating documents, and assistance with all materials needed in job interviews.

She also wants to help students gain confidence when speaking English. One effective way of doing this is to help them practice giving presentations for their various student organizations.

Some students use vocabulary planners in which they collect words they need help with in class. The next time they meet with Beck, they discuss the words and build muscle memory so they can use them regularly.

Both Beck and Hedges said they have found collaboration with instructors and staff at Francis Tuttle to be very easy.

“We’re here to serve our students,” Beck said. “It’s a really good team, and I’m very lucky to be here for that.”

Both are former K-12 educators. Beck moved to the U.S. from Venezuela while pursing a master’s degree and became an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher before working as a newcomer counselor for one year.

Hedges worked as an instructional coach and a classroom teacher before joining Francis Tuttle. She saw it as an opportunity to pursue a dream job of helping students with their education as well as advocating for them.

“I wanted to be part of that bigger picture again,” Hedges said. “I can help students get into college and help them get a job. I can help change their whole family’s trajectory because if they are educated and if they have a career, they can help the rest of their family.”

Beck also works with Francis Tuttle students on the opposite side of the language coin. She teaches “Survival Spanish” in the Criminal Justice training program to help them with potential language barriers they would experience on the job.

by Chelsey Koppari - May 31, 2024