Garden Hills Elementary School
This year I chose to volunteer in the Champaign-Urbana community at Garden Hills Elementary School in Champaign. I have previously volunteered at Garden Hills Elementary with the SOAR tutoring program and was a tutor in the second, third, and fourth grade classrooms. Based on the experiences that I had with each grade, I decided to work in the third grade bilingual classroom. Even though I volunteered with SOAR for two years, I now realize that I did not have a full understanding or appreciation for the staff at Garden Hills. I was never able to see the teachers or faculty members “in action” since SOAR operates after school. Sure, I respected them like any other teacher, but now, after seeing what a typical day is like at Garden Hills (or rather, how there is no such thing as a normal day), I have come to have a much deeper appreciation for them. Garden Hills Elementary school is one of three sites for gifted programs, has a large focus on bilingual education and instruction, and strives for the students to obtain intercultural understanding and respect. Their mission is to engage and empower students “through a rigorous, internationally-minded, inquiry-based curriculum in order to become independent, life-long learners well-equipped to thrive and contribute within local and global communities.”
As I have witnessed, the teachers work very hard to try and carry out the school’s mission. Some of the students are more challenging than others and require a lot of individual attention; this is especially difficult when you have a class of 25 other students. I work in Ms. Perez’s third-grade bilingual classroom. The students in her classroom are all Hispanic, which means that she uses Spanish the majority of the time. The students are also at different academic levels. Some students have learning disabilities, some just need more individual attention, others are at age-appropriate academic levels, and others are a little bit above. My role in the classroom is to serve as a kind of teacher’s aide. Specifically, I work to improve the students’ reading comprehension, develop better writing skills, and understand math concepts. Ms. Perez typically sends students with me to a little alcove in the hallway to work.
So far I am really enjoying my time at Garden Hills and am grateful to be exposed to “real” Spanish being used in the community! I am looking forward to the rest of my time at this school.