Letter to the Editor: ESL instructor praises article shining light on other staff

Channels Opinion Page | Letters to the Editor

Marit ter Mate-Martinsen

I would like to thank Leah Dautoff for writing a story about our credit English as a Second Language (ESL) program in the Channels, “ESL Program Provides Support for All Non-English Speaking Students” on October 21, 2022. 

When we talk about providing support to ESL students, I would like to acknowledge our dedicated ESL office staff consisting of Raquel Hernandez-Alvarado, Arlene Mata, and Alejandra Corona-Lesser. They are like the little engine that could. 

During the height of the pandemic when we had to move our classes and support services online, this trio supported our students around the clock, even on weekends. When we experienced a drop in enrollment due to COVID-19, they helped rebuild our program. They made thousands of phone calls and wrote endless text messages to individual students and listened to their fears, struggles and grief as they were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. In fact, one of our ESL students lost 11 family members to COVID. 

Despite the many challenges students faced during the pandemic, they have remained eager to study and improve their English to better support their children’s education, to find higher-paying jobs, and to study a degree or certificate program at SBCC. Our student-centered staff has helped ESL learners check out Chromebooks and hot spots and walked them through every step. They would meet students on campus if it was too difficult for them to do things remotely or drive to their homes to assist them. They ensured that 100% of our students applied for CARES money, and if a check got stolen, they would drive them to a notary to sign off on a statement to make sure they could get a new check. They hand-delivered in-house ESL certificates to our “graduating” students with custom cookies on their doorsteps and sent flowers to students who were grieving. 

On behalf of the credit ESL team, I want to express our sincere gratitude to our hard-working ESL office staff for always going above and beyond. If anyone is interested in taking ESL classes on the Main Campus, visit the ESL building or call 805-699-6618.