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New Event Helps Adult Students Practice English Conversational Skills

New Event Helps Adult Students Practice English Conversational Skills

The Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) Adult Learning Center (ALC) hosted its first annual “Chatterbox Series” to help English Language Learners (ELLs) practice conversation with a fluent speaker. In honor of Black History Month and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, discussions focused on the civil rights icon and his principles of nonviolence. The event was a valuable experience for ALC students to engage in interactive conversations outside of what is typically discussed in the classroom.

Students in the ELL Level 6 Advanced Class were paired with volunteers, including ACPS Superintendent Dr. Melanie Kay-Wyatt and Alexandria City School Board Member Dr. Ashley Simpson Baird. Additional ACPS staff also served as volunteers.

The event was organized by ACPS Director of Adult Education Teri Barnett and ALC Teacher Lorna Wallen.

"The ChatterBox Series allowed our students to navigate thoughtful conversations that were outside the textbook,” Barnett said. “Although they were nervous about speaking to people like the superintendent, this process was so empowering that they all flourished. It gave them the opportunity to have a voice, to express their language and critical thinking skills in a supportive environment. I am so proud of them all."

ACPS Assistant Director of Communications Gladis Bourdouane praised a student for sharing her experience as an immigrant and encouraged her to keep practicing English, telling her, ““You’re on your way – just keep talking!”

Sahar Wiltshire, who serves as the ALC assessment/data specialist, overheard this conversation and reflected on Bourdouane’s words. “It made me think of ‘just keep swimming’ from Finding Nemo, which in its own way is a valuable lesson to just keep going – don’t let anything stop you.”

At the conclusion of the event, Dr. Kay-Wyatt told the students to never apologize for their English skills and offered words of support. “I want you to continue to follow your passion,” she said. “A lot of you talked about your beliefs, passion and goals. Stick to them.”

ALC Student Feliz Tosun could not speak any English when she came to America from Turkey. But through the help of the ALC, she has learned the language and culture of her new country. She has also made friends through her classes.

“I admire the people, they are very friendly” she said, “Teachers and staff. They help us. They are really working hard to teach us English.”

“Walking around, I heard many students discuss their hopes and dreams and what they wish to accomplish once they learn and improve their English skills,” said Wiltshire. “These interactive conversations showed that, backgrounds aside, we are all the same. We all want a better life for ourselves and our families.”

For many, a better life begins with mastering English. And, after the Chatterbox Series, the ALC students are one step closer to that goal.

For more information on the ALC, including its ELL programming, visit the ACPS website.

  • 2023-24
  • adult learning center