English Tutoring Program Reaches Rural Students in Colombia – UBNow: News and Views for UB Faculty and Staff

When recent UB grad Winston Franklin signed up last spring to teach English to rural high school students in Colombia, he saw a bigger opportunity. Why not make the distance program a “cultural exchange” and go beyond the classic tutor-student relationship?

“Remote tutoring was difficult due to connectivity issues and being limited by screens,” says Franklin, who will launch an ESOL EdM graduate program this fall. “However, I managed the remote aspect by using presentation slides, other media and games. The aim was to adapt and create a fun and interactive learning time for the students.

Breaking out of the tutor-student relationship worked. This opened Franklin’s eyes to the education and technology enjoyed by students in the United States, privileges absent from a rural Colombian education. It also broadened his own awareness to a more global perspective.

“It’s been a pleasure to be a little stepping stone to help students learn English,” Franklin says.

This enhanced remote model continues this fall when UB’s Experiential Learning Network (ELN) again offers its “Colombia: English Tutoring in a Rural High School” program, in collaboration with students from Colegio Custodio García High School. Rovira in Malaga Santander, Colombia. Founded in 1925, the school has made a fundamental commitment to the right to education of children, young people and adults in the region. Its directors emphasize ethical, moral and social values, as well as a commitment to the inclusion of people with special needs. The school provides humanitarian services and trains its students to make their own humanitarian contributions.

But the Colegio Custodio García Rovira had its own needs.

“Despite these great attributes, our school struggles with challenges associated with limited resources and the deep poverty experienced by the families of our students,” school officials say.

“While education represents an important route to achievement and success, our students are limited in their exposure to English language instruction, which in turn affects their performance on important educational exams and future opportunities. “

Enter ELN and the small but mighty team of four students who signed up last spring to fill that void. They navigated the hurdles of remote learning and went beyond the basics to embrace Franklin’s idea of ​​”cultural exchange,” transcending a distant face on a screen by memorizing a language and impersonal way.

The program will expand this fall with enhancements made by the student team. Cailey Shum, team member and statistics specialist, is developing lessons for use this fall.

“Helping these students understand English is rewarding,” says Shum. “Creating this lesson plan structure will be useful for next semester tutors.”

Shum managed the remote aspect of the program last spring, strategizing with ELN administrative director Christina Heath to develop better lesson plans. This fall, she will take on a more hands-on role and mentor students herself, adding to her current job as a tutor for UB Athletics.

“I hope these students will have a better understanding of the English language,” says Shum. “I love giving back my knowledge to help others, and this project really resonated with me to give back to my community.”

The Tutoring Project has an intriguing genesis, which has produced a passionate and influential advocate for UB’s experiential learning capabilities.

Alexandra Pickett, director of the SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence, heard about Mara Huber, founding director of UB’s ELN, and her team last October. A first-generation Colombian-American, Pickett wanted to create a remote English tutoring program for needy rural high school students in the Santander region of Colombia to honor her mother, who immigrated to the United States to pursue her graduate studies in education. .

As headmistress of a girls’ school in Santander, Pickett’s mother was keen to help young adults, especially women, pursue the careers of their choice, regardless of the constraints imposed by cultural, religious and social roles. of gender. She was a strong believer in international trade and was a role model for those in her care, her daughter says.

“Because of my mother, and to recognize my South American roots, I’ve always been interested in how to amplify, connect and share with anyone in Latin America, especially Colombia,” said said Pickett. “When my Colombian colleague and friend from a University of Texas contacted me to think about how he could help his former high school in Colombia, I was hooked and determined to help. I reached out to contacts everywhere and I found Mara and her program remarkable.

“This tutoring project means the world to me,” Pickett says. “It shows the good that can come when people come together with a common purpose to help each other. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a mutually beneficial experience. Yes, those of us with privilege can do more to share, connect, and solve real-world problems and challenges,” she says.

“But there is now a Colombian school and students who have real connections with the ELN project and the students of UB. Colombian students were able to practice and improve their English; UB students got to know them and their background. They learned all kinds of things about tutoring, cross-cultural communications, language learning and more.

Heath, Shum’s mentor, says it’s “wonderful” to see UB students “grasp the opportunity to have authentic cultural exchange.”

“They leveraged what they learned during the pandemic by quickly delivering games played virtually to encourage Colombian students to practice English in a fun and engaging way,” she says.

“We received very rave reviews about our UB students from the teacher in Colombia who shared how much her class was looking forward to these sessions.”

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