HONEY GROVE — For students learning English as a second language, the learning curve can prove daunting. But a welcoming environment, extra support and seamless language integration into students’ day-to-day lives goes a long way, Honey Grove ISD ESL coordinator Maria Litovsky said.
For students and teachers alike at Honey Grove High School, Litovsky tries to be a consistent source of support and encouragement.
“That really is my job, is to work with them and support them. Help teachers, help students,” Litovsky said. “It’s a small school, and we try to meet their needs on an individual basis. We don’t do a one-size-fits-all.”
In Honey Grove ISD, roughly 65% of students are white, 20% are Hispanic and 8.5% are black. About 7% of students are classified as English Language Learners. These students are of all ages and fluency levels, Litovsky said.
“We have Spanish speakers across a variety of levels,” she said. “There are some who are almost fully fluent and will be ready to move out. We have others who maybe just got here last month.”
Litovsky’s approach to English Language Learners is to help them adjust to day-to-day life as a student and integrate the language as smoothly as possible, she said. Whether that means extra practice for important tests, translating language for math concepts or providing supplemental English reading materials, her goal is to help them gain confidence in an existing environment, not isolate them or separate them from their classmates, she said.
“We try to integrate them into the mainstream,” she said. “For example, some students could be very good at math, but not understand the language. So we work with them as needed. If we take them out, they lose their interactions with teachers, friends, other students.”
Athletics, friends and a welcoming environment are just as important to students’ success as academic support, Litovsky said.
“We don’t want them to be isolated, we want them to be apart of the community,” she said.
There are 12 students enrolled in the ESL program currently, and Litovsky said she works with eight of those students in a hands-on role. With others, she works more behind the scenes, supporting teachers and providing supplemental materials. Many of the students do well with computer skills, math, science — it is often language-dependent subjects, such as writing or English, that add difficulty for non-native speakers, she said.
Litovsky has worked at Honey Grove ISD for three years, but has close to 30 years of experience in ESL work, she said. Originally from Argentina, she has worked in multiple countries, including Israel, where she worked for 12 years. There are both challenges and rewards that come with her job, she said.
“I think it’s very rewarding when you see the student learning and progressing year to year,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to see them flourish. But a challenge would be to work hard to analyze each case individually and know what each student needs.”
At the end of the day, seeing the students and their successes — both inside and outside the classroom — encourages Litovsky.
“When you’re motivated and really want to learn, no one can stop you,” she said.