When new immigrants come to the United States, it is more likely than not the first barriers they encounter are with the language. Everything from finding a place to live to gainful employment requires at least some understanding of the English language.

Helping those who haven’t found opportunity yet to learn the language was the goal of a program coordinated between Gildan Yarns and the Polk School District’s Graduate Polk program to provide free classes for those who seek to gain a greater understanding of the English language.

The classes taught by Sara Tornincasa, the ESOL Transition Teacher for Polk School District at Cedartown High School, were exactly the kind of program that Graduate Polk was created to solve.

Tornincasa explained that Graduate Polk saw a need that wasn’t being filled for the parents of students within the school district, and a business partner with similar issues who were willing to help. The program marked the first time that ESL classes were made available through the district for those who aren’t students.

“It was incredibly humbling and such an amazing experience to be a part of it, to see something like this get off the ground,” Tornincasa said.

The courses taught over the past months in the opening round of the program stuck to a basic level of English language skills, she said. Plans are to expand the program in the 2019-2020 school year to include classes for both basic and intermediate level participants, allowing those who received certificates in recent weeks as classes closed an opportunity to continue on in their language learning.

Tornincasa said it is likely she’ll have many of her students back since the process of language learning requires first a knowledge of the spoken language, and then can get deeper into the grammar and written aspects of a new tongue for any person.

“I have students who are in classes, in my ESL classes, and they have a wonderful ability to listen to and follow directions, and speak and communicate in English,” she explained. “But when it comes to the written portion and test taking skills, they struggle in class.”

It is no easier for adults. So for native Spanish speakers who finished the program — and a lone Vietnamese speaker as well — the process is even more difficult because the syntax of the languages differ from one another, along with word order.

However, Tornincasa’s job was made easier with the help of younger students coming along to classes to help their parents with the work.

“I think probably the sweetest part of it as a teacher was the kids who came regularly to help their parents,” she said. “Some were little, and some were in high school. Got to get to know some of our high school kids, but amazing to see how involved the younger kids were in their parent language acquisition.”

Tornincasa said a new round of classes are set to begin with registration and orientation on Tuesday, August 27 and Thursday, Aug. 29 with registration beginning for the intermediate level class at 5 p.m. on the first night at Cedartown High School.

Beginner level class registration will follow for the Thursday evening session also set to begin at 5 p.m., and is being held in the same location.

Tornincasa said no documentation is required to participate other than basic personal information and an emergency contact. Gildan will be partnering with Polk School District for the next round of classes, which will remain free.

Those interested in participating can contact Gildan’s Human Resource manager Susan Oswalt at 770-748-2510, extension 110, or by email at soswalt@gildan.com.

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