Bilingual Parent Institute helps moms, dads help their children

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 30 15:29:10 UTC 2006

Forwarded from edling at
Overcoming obstacles

Bilingual Parent Institute helps moms, dads help their children.

By Cynthia Wine
Special Correspondent

March 29, 2006

Even for parents, homework can be daunting. Especially when it's not in
their first language. That's why Broward County Schools has an annual
Bilingual Parent Institute for parents of elementary school students in
the English for Speakers of Other Languages program. "Parents need to feel
part of the education of their children," said Sayra Hughes, executive
director of the Bilingual/Foreign Language/ESOL Education Department,
which hosts the event. "They are the first teachers their children have,
and we need to make sure they have the tools necessary to help these

Hughes said 220 parents turned out for the recent sixth annual event.
"Because we are an international community, a lot of the attendees are not
familiar with our school system. They come from countries that have
completely different school systems," Hughes said. "We hope they become
more familiar with our system and are not intimidated. Knowledge is power,
and we're trying to give them the power to make educated, informed
decisions, and know how to get the tools and assistance they need." The
theme this year was "The Magic of ESOL."

"ESOL is the magic -- the methodology that gives the children another
language, not only to succeed socially, but academically," said Yvette
Fernandez, of Coral Springs, a bilingual parent outreach specialist. The
Parent Institute focuses on three languages. This year, the
Spanish-language sessions drew 100 parents, while the Portuguese and
Creole sessions each had 60 parents participating. During the workshops,
parents learned study activities for math and reading, and received an
overview of the areas tested by the FCAT. They received activity guides to
take home, and a variety of educational games and videos were given away.
After lunch, the parents participated in Jim Seidel's "Roots of Rhythm"
percussion and drum program to bring the institute to a close. Reviewing
the day's activities, parents felt the experience was worthwhile for them
and would help them help their children.

"I come every year," said institute veteran Cristian Hauser of Hollywood.
Hauser was born in Peru and has three children. Cristian is a freshman at
a magnet school in Sunrise, while fourth-grader Frank and second-grader
Kristen attend Hollywood Elementary. "I like the way they talk to us," he
said of the institute staff. "It's very professional and you learn a lot
of things." The institute's teachers were also enthusiastic. Mimosa
Louinis, a reading teacher at Tedder Elementary in Deerfield Beach, has
been conducting the Haitian-Creole workshops for several years.

Louinis was born in Haiti and said her own family's experience motivates
her to give up a Saturday to help at the institute. "When you're dealing
with foreign parents, they don't know the school system at all -- what's
expected of them, what's expected of their children," Louinis said. "When
you bring it to them it's a big relief, especially when you present it in
their own language and they can really understand it. It's like a gift
from heaven." Bilingual/ESOL Director Tania Mena conducted the math
workshop for Spanish-speaking parents. She suggested such activities as
puzzles and games, adding up prices at the grocery store, or even helping
to measure a room when buying carpet. "Many people are afraid of math, so
we help to diffuse that," Mena said. "We look at ways to start instilling
a love for math and show them math is in everything you do."

Luciana Gentile, who teaches third grade at Winston Park Elementary and
lives in Coconut Creek, led the math and reading workshops in Portuguese.
"We explained what the child is learning and this is what you can do at
home to help," she said. "They were so receptive and so happy they
welcomed the information. There's so much help available at libraries and
schools, we're just getting the word out." It was her first time at the
institute and she's looking forward to returning next year. "I was
impressed with the event," she said. "All you saw were smiling faces."

Copyright (c) 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


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