COURTESY OF MOANALUA HIGH SCHOOL
English as a Second Language instructor Laurie Dirnberger helps student Lin Shang on an assignment. Dirnberger is one of two teachers who instruct non-native English speakers in English, social studies and conversational English.
Learning to Adapt
Students who hail from foreign countries find a comfort level in specialized instruction
In Laurie Dirnberger's fourth-period English as a Second Language class, her students speak Korean, Chinese and Filipino dialects.
Dirnberger does not speak any of those languages, yet she still manages to communicate with her class.
Moanalua High School
Na Hoku O Moanalua
2825 Ala Ilima St., Honolulu 96818
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"If you were to see the kids in our classrooms, and then see them in their regular classrooms, it's like night and day," Dirnberger said. "They are as quiet as a mouse in those other classes because they're so intimidated.
"In our class, we laugh every day. There's so much freedom because everybody knows that no one is better than the other person."
ESL classes at Moanalua are composed of 100 students from many backgrounds and abilities. Two teachers, Dirnberger and Armelita Lawrence, instruct them in English, social studies and conversational English.
Students of varying abilities are grouped in the same classes, based not on learning level but on whatever fits into each student's schedule. It is frustrating for ESL teachers, but ultimately unavoidable.
The key word is "accommodate," Dirnberger said: "You have some students in the same class who are really good at English and some who just came in and can only say 'yes' or 'no.'"
Most Hawaii schools use this "inclusive" ESL system, generally an approach that is significantly behind that of the rest of the country.
"I think it's the mentality here (in Hawaii)," Lawrence said. "The people who head the program need to do more research. They have to know what works and what doesn't."
Many mainland ESL programs are more progressive and efficient. They include "bilingual" programs, where teachers speak the same language as their students, and "pull-out" programs, where students attend regular classes and teachers pull them out for extra instruction.
When working on the mainland, Dirnberger taught under a pull-out system in an elementary school and loved it.
"I could pull kids out based upon what their level language was," Dirnberger said.
ESL teachers in Hawaii do not have that opportunity.
"I can be teaching very basic things one day and the more advanced students will get bored," Dirnberger said. "Or I could be teaching more advanced students and I lose the other kids. It can be very frustrating."
Still, Dirnberger and Lawrence manage to create a classroom environment that benefits from the wide range of ability.
Students are treated to an atmosphere of vast cultures and languages. Classes are small and comfortable. Students can relate to one another -- they are all just kids trying to get along in a foreign place.
"It gives the students a sense of community," Dirnberger explained.
Also, because of the small class sizes, there is very individualized, one-on-one teaching. Students can benefit from personal assistance.
There is a mindset among many that associates ESL students with lower-level learning. People believe that just because the students do not speak perfect English, they are automatically below average. This is typical of the stereotypes these students must face every day. Dirnberger and Lawrence know this perspective is false.
In fact, ESL students are unlike any in the school. They've experienced living in different countries and speaking different languages. They know the struggles that come with learning to adjust to a completely new place.
Dirnberger explained: "The typical ESL student wants to learn. And I'm sorry, but the typical student out there doesn't. I enjoy being in a place where the student wants to be there. As a teacher, that's what motivates me."
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Kiss-a-pig event raised bacon for hurricane relief
Travel program students got to learn project management
The little piggy did not go to the market on Oct. 31. Instead, he arrived at Moanalua High School straight from Nozawa's Ark, a small business providing animals for special events like the Travel Industry Management Kiss-A-Pig fundraiser.
The fundraiser took three weeks to plan and ran for two weeks as an extension of TIM Week, which ran from Oct. 18 to 23.
Participating teachers placed jars in their classrooms, and students and fellow teachers alike would put money inside. The teacher who had the most money at the end of the two-week period received the honor of kissing a pig.
"The goal was to promote the travel program at Moanalua and teach TIM students the functions of project management," adviser Evangeline Casinas said.
"It got better as time went on -- the hype increased and more teachers wanted to participate," chairperson Robin Obregon said. However, she agreed that it was stressful and she "got a lot of white hairs, (but) it was all worth it."
COURTESY OF MOANALUA HIGH SCHOOL
Moanalua Principal Darrel Galera earned the honor of kissing a pig on Halloween after collecting $276.57 for the Travel Industry Management Kiss-A-Pig fundraiser.
The hard work of event chairs Obregon and Emi Fuyuki paid off; the 25 participating teachers and staff raised $809.58.
Casinas was very pleased, saying, "I've done it before for a month -- only $500 was raised."
All proceeds from this fundraiser went to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund.
To Casinas, it was significant that the travel industry group ran the fundraiser, because Hurricane Katrina affected tourist destinations like New Orleans, a city that bases much of its economy on tourism, just like Hawaii.
At lunch on Oct. 31, a large group of students and teachers gathered around the stage outside the cafeteria to witness the winner kiss the pig. Although many teachers earned a respectable amount of money (runners-up included Kristie Morikawa with $106.88 and Lori Mizue with $124.59), the clear winner was Principal Darrel Galera, who collected a grand total of $276.57, an impressive 34.2 percent of the total earned during the fundraiser itself.
Galera was hesitant to kiss the pig, allowing his Halloween-costumed counterpart, senior Felipe Ojastro, to do it first.
"I had more fun seeing Felipe kiss the pig," said Galera with a smile.
Nevertheless, Galera fulfilled his promise and planted a kiss on the squealing piglet.
"It was great fun, and I especially enjoyed knowing it was for a good cause," he said.
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If every job paid the same, what would you do?
"Work at a correctional facility."
"A job collecting moon rocks."
"Ambassador to Japan (for America in Japan)."