Quesnel has enjoyed a steady increase of International students choosing to take part of all of their studies in the community.
However, one of the vital services required by foreign language students is learning English.
Thanks to the efforts of SD28 teacher Bev McLean, there are several teachers, including student support workers (SSW) and members of the community trained to provide this service.
“I was tutoring nine Asian students and realized we had a need that wasn’t being filled,” she said.
McLean set about pulling resources together for a training course close to home that would answer that need.
She realized the closest education institution to Quesnel offering such programs was Thompson River University in Kamloops.
At the same time she put the word out across the educational community to assess interest.
“Thirty people responded they were interested in such a course,” McLean said.
“All with an interest in working or interacting with International students and others needing English as a second language.
To its credit, TRU responded quickly to the request and not only put in place distance learning opportunities which would see the successful English as a Second Language (ESL) professional students receive international accreditation, the university also modified the program to provide SSWs with a diploma in ESL.
The program required Interactive TV to allow TRU professors to provide instruction to students in Quesnel.
McLean was incredibly grateful to Community Futures for providing this equipment at a reasonable rate.
Once the course was in place, 14 students signed up, including one from Williams Lake.
SD28 provided the weekend classroom venue at Ecole Baker elementary school.
One of the ESL students, Kelly Atkinson, bilingual librarian at Ecole Baker, commented on the community partnering.
“Quesnel has a heart and a head, the community pulls together to fill a void,” she said.
“This makes Quesnel a better option for people considering relocating here who require ESL.”
McLean said in addition to everything TRU had done to make this program work, they also provided some face-to-face instruction, a requirement of the accreditation process.
The ESL students have just returned from their practicum at TRU in Kamloops.
Students paid for the course and once complete, adds only a qualification enhancement, not any additional money on their paycheck.
However, the advantage to students entering SD28 is they now have a number of teachers trained to provide ESL services which will be an attractant to promoting Quesnel to International students.
Trained ESL teachers, student support workers and community members will also benefit new families and existing families in the community that require ESL services.
“I always believed a program that expands Quesnel’s marketability was good for the community and good for our sustainability,” McLean said.
“Now other communities can learn from us.”