April 23rd, 2024

TDCAlA honours students in Celebration of Learning

By Greg Price on March 24, 2021.

Many hearts were full at the recent Celebration of Learning at the Provincial Building boardroom last week with Taber and District Adult Learning Association (TDCALA).
There were nine Low-German Mennonite women in attendance, as ESL co-ordinator Shirley Selvaraj-Dyck and TDCALA executive director Cindy Slenders were on hand as masters of ceremonies, to give out certificates and offer words of encouragement for their hard work since the fall, of learning a completely new language to them as adults.
Doing the program for over 20 years, Jane Brenner, who recently retired from TCDALA after 36 years, gave her perspective as a guest speaker, of how big of an accomplishment the students’ efforts were.
“That’s a long time to do the program. But do you know what that tells me? That the program is very successful. That people learn and so they have that desire to come,” said Brenner. “Each of us is born with that desire to learn inside of us and it is hard. It is hard to come to school, but the benefits are so great.”
Brenner recalled one of the learner’s children having a hard time adjusting at first in supplied daycare, as his mother learned, but eventually finding new horizons himself as well.
“Her little boy cried and cried and cried. Now, he just runs to get into there because he’s so happy. Why do you think that is? Because he’s learning too, and knows it’s time to learn,” said Brenner. “It hasn’t always been fun to learn. It’s been hard to learn, but I want to thank Shirley and Tina (Friesen) for the wonderful job they do teaching. They do such a wonderful job, spending hours and hours and hours knowing just what they need to teach to you, and how to make it work for each of you. We all learn differently don’t we? Some people learn by seeing, some people learn by hearing and some learn by doing. We never stop learning.”
Slenders presented each student with their certificate, repeating the words of praise instructors gave to each learner’s strengths in their educational journey in a new land. Students themselves gave testimonials of how much ESL education had impacted their lives for the better. Often with language and comprehension skills people born in Canada often take for granted, getting a head start learning them so young.
“Even then, my kids come home from their grades with their school forms I need to fill out. I can read and understand them and help them out. I have filled out a Taber Christian School permission form. My husband says my English is getting better. He says you have to go to school to learn,” said one proud student. “When we go to a restaurant, I can order by myself. Before, my husband would order for me. Now I can go alone and talk to the doctor in English. I am interested in learning more English in class and I will keep going.”
Other testimonials included now having the ability to do banking with their English speaking and comprehension, helping their husbands and children with certain English words, and a growing confidence by leaps and bounds, making the transition into Canada easier.
Some of the learners have been in the program multiple years, building on each experience in the previous semester in each class. That includes having an easier time adjusting to Canada in communication skills, and a confidence to make new friendships in being a newer member to the country.
“They have benefited me as I use them in my day-to-day life. My reading, writing and spelling has greatly improved. We have had great times in our classes,” said another student, with TDCALA offering ESL drop in classes in the day and evening. “We laugh together, we help each other to improve. Daycare has been very good. My little boy has enjoyed coming to daycare. They play together, they do crafts together. It takes dedication to come to class. But, if you keep coming, you will improve.”
The last speaker student of the day told of the pride she had when a friend gave her some story books to read and she could comprehend as a senior. No longer was she timid to go out to the store anymore.
“I talk to the people in the stores. I am able to ask them questions when I cannot find something in the stores,” she said, adding the connections to her grandchildren are now deeper in spending time together. “When I go to my grandchildren and speak in English, I can understand them more. I’ve also learned to write cheques, so if I need to, I can write one myself. I like my teachers, they are kind and happy.”
The Celebration of Learning included snacks and refreshments and some fun games like literacy bingo. Some canvas painting with an instructor was thrown in for good measure. A tearful Friesen gave a speech in Low German, noting the students had just as big of an impact on her as she had on them teaching English, and an easier way to life in transition.
Slenders ended the ceremony portion of the day with words of encouragement to the students, recalling a story of when her grandmother migrated from Germany. Slenders was eager to learn German, but her grandmother refused, allowing her to only pick up the odd word here and there. TDCALA has said yes to the students, in teaching a full immersion into the English language, making the transition from Mexico easier.
“I want to tell you how proud I am of each and every one of you. Learning a second language in a different country is very hard work,” said Slenders.

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