By Connie and Lynn Baer
Grossmont High School offered its first English as a Second Language courses in fall 1991, when the district decentralized ESL from El Cajon Valley High School to each school site that had at least 30 ESL students.
Due to her ability to speak Spanish, English teacher Suzanne Geba was selected as the Grossmont class’s teacher. One of her first class activities was a campus tour to familiarize the students with their new high school. As they toured the campus with a map with Spanish translations on it, Geba quickly realized that not all the students spoke Spanish. In fact, their diversity included Vietnamese, Arabic, Chaldean, Polish, Bulgarian and Chinese.
For the next 15 years as the program evolved, Geba was the guide and advocate for English language learners. Geba was one of the first educators who studied and passed the Language Development Specialist exam. Until her retirement in 2006, she taught all levels of ESL and was Grossmont’s bilingual coordinator.
“I loved to see the students from different cultures bond and enjoy each other,” Geba recalled. “For example, when the Macarena dance was popular, the Mexican girls would practice in my classroom at lunch and show the Middle Eastern girls the moves. Also, many of the Mexican students invited their European and Middle Eastern friends to their quinceañeras, where everyone socialized as one.”
Today, there are 313 English learners at Grossmont.
“The purpose of ELD is to bridge the learning gap between language acquisition and content knowledge for students whose first language is not English,” said English language development (ELD) coordinator Joann Philips.
This semester there are three levels of ELD: beginning, intermediate and advanced English. Each class pairs with a reading elective.
In addition, there are four sheltered history classes while math and science have traditionally sheltered students mainstreamed into their courses. Also, there are three transitional English courses that support mainstreamed English learner (EL) students, much like AVID classes. An adult Arabic-speaking EL aide, Rasha Kiryakos, offers support as well.
Upon graduation from Grossmont, most of the EL students go on to Grossmont College for post-secondary education. Several students who began at Grossmont in the ELD sheltered classes challenged themselves and were able to take Advanced Placement English as juniors or seniors.
Last year seniors Reem Alsafar and Ivana Salim graduated with honors after being in the U.S. fewer than five years!
Programs such as ELD provide the support students need to achieve their potential. For questions about the GHS ELD program, contact Joann Phillips at email@example.com. Grossmont High School’s staff is constantly looking for ways to enable our students to succeed in high school and in life.
Visit the GHS Museum to see the wonders of our Foothiller past and present. GHS Museum’s regular public hours are noon to 4 p.m. on Jan. 7 or by appointment.
—Connie and Lynn Baer are Foothiller alumni and coordinators of the GHS Museum. Contact the museum by phone at 619-668-6140, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at foothillermuseum.com.