In the column I wrote last month as Communications Director, I delved into how students in special education at Gettysburg Area School District fared during the pandemic. To gain an understanding of what it was like for ELs , I spoke to Janet Hasis, who is an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Gettysburg Area High School. She defines ESL as helping students who are learning a second language. The role of ESL staff is to help facilitate social and academic language in all content areas. Students in the EL program faced significant challenges and barriers that were fueled by the coronavirus pandemic. Some of these challenges were different from those who are already native English speakers.
Janet said she fundamentally believes that the pandemic helped all teachers, in general, understand even further the four domains of reading, writing, speaking and listening in relation to ELs. As ELs attended classes remotely, she said it was challenging to figure out how to engage students in a virtual environment especially when there are language barriers. ESL is often seen as a safe environment where students come and are able to authentically be themselves.