Maria Sanchez

LAUSD/DACE - Harbor Community Adult School

My name is Maria Sanchez. In 1981 my husband and I came to San Pedro for a better life for our son, Jorge Ortega. Soon after we arrived here, I realized life was impossible without any of us speaking a word of English. I took jobs cleaning houses to earn just enough money to support my family so I could enroll in English classes.

After settling in San Pedro, I came to Harbor Community Adult School to register for an ESL class. At that time I wasn't aware of all the opportunities that existed for adult students. Academically, I had no plans made for my future. Since I was already an adult with only six years of education background, and since I had been away from school for so many years, I thought it was too late for me to pursue a career. My only goal was to learn just enough English so I could find a decent job that would allow my family and me to survive.

Coming to Harbor is one of the best things I have ever done in my life because it changed my life completely. Here I found some of the most excellent and dedicated ESL and academic instructors who were always in the best disposition to help me with my needs as a student. They not only taught me English, but they also encouraged me and helped me through the adult academic program so I could achieve an eighth grade diploma, a GED certificate, and a high school diploma. In addition to that, they prepared me for the Los Angeles Harbor Community College where I achieved an AA degree in August of 1999. Then, I transferred to California State University Dominguez Hills where I obtained a BA degree in December of 2002.

The academic, moral, and financial support I received at Harbor Community Adult School allowed me to gradually climb the ladder day after day. It wasn't easy at all, especially when I started college. I had to study twice as much as a native English speaker in order to do okay on my school assignments. The difference of age, culture, language, and education level was really shocking! Most of the time I was under a lot of stress. I would get headaches, stomachaches, and even worse yet, I would come home crying like a little child because I hadn't done so well in class or because I didn't know how to start the assigned homework for that day.

Sometimes I felt so out of place that I was tempted to quit. But having the strong desire to become a teacher and knowing that the people who supported my education believed in me and expected me to do well prevented me from quitting. Their support really encouraged me to make my best effort to go on to reach my goal and to not let them down. And I did it! Thanks to the wonderful program and the excellent, professional instructors that I have had through the long process, my dream of becoming a teacher has become a reality! I received my first teaching assignment from Harbor Community Adult School in September of 2003.

After many years of struggling, I have the great opportunity now to teach ESL to adults. I have been teaching for two years and it has been a wonderful experience. The fact that I was an ESL student myself allows me to understand my students' needs and concerns as adult learners. I identify with them as well as they seem to identify with me and we really work very well together. We really create a very nice, friendly, learning environment in our classroom, which I think contributes to my students' enthusiasm and learning results.

I consider myself so fortunate to have the opportunity to work for the California Adult Education Program because it is giving me the opportunity to help other adult students as I was generously helped. Now I think it is my responsibility to give a little bit back from all I have received, which is not a problem because I really enjoy teaching and helping my students.

Even though I am not that young anymore, I have plans for my future. If I have the opportunity, I would like to keep myself active in the teaching field I would also like to continue growing as a teacher by observing other classes, going to workshops, conferences, and making use of whatever is available for teachers so I can improve my teaching skills to provide my students with the professional service they deserve. And who knows, if I can afford it, and if I don't die from old age, I might go back to school!

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the instructors, administrators and staff from Harbor Community Adult School who in one way or the other have contributed to my success in reaching my life goal

Special thanks to Dr. Lanny M. Nelms, the school's principal, Ms. Camila Kocol, the school's former principal, Ms. Dorothy McCullough, Ms. Penny Kunitani, Ms. Greta Giving, Assistant Principals, Mr. lack O'Brien, former Assistant Principal, Ms. Annette Ciketic, site coordinator, who gave me the opportunity to do my first teaching assignment at her site, Ms. Sandy Homicz, who taught me Adult Basic Studies, Ms. Pam Summers, Mr. Garr Kuhl, Ms. Mutlu Ugur who helped me through the high school program, Ms. Eve Pericich, Ms. Zita Bar, Mr. Steve Gelman, Ms. Paula Levi, Ms. Silvia De La Pena who got me through the ESL program, Mr. Bill Annand who helped me through the ESL program, prepared me to pass the CBEST exam, and has always supported my career and education, Ms. Barbara Casillas who always believed in me, and celebrated my achievements and Ms. Susan Allewaert who has taken me to valuable ABS workshops.

How Adult Education Contributed to My Current Success

The ESL program broke down the barrier that existed between me and the world when I wasn't able to communicate because I didn't know the language. It helped me improve my reading and writing Spanish skills which I had almost forgotten since I had been away from school for so many years. It gave me the opportunity to move on to a higher education. It was a great help for me because by being in six different ESL levels I had the opportunity not only to learn English but also to learn the teaching methods and techniques from my ESL instructors. Some of my former teachers think I do a good job as a teacher, but they don't realize that the kind of teacher I am is what they made out of me. I am the product of their hard work, professionalism, talent, and dedication as teachers.

The Adult Basic Studies Program also worked well for me. It gave me the opportunity to build up my English vocabulary, to improve my math skills, and to improve the reading and writing English skills I had acquired in the ESL classes. It also worked well as a link between the ESL classes and the high school program. And best of all, it gave me the opportunity to obtain my eighth grade diploma.

Going into the adult high school program meant harder work because it introduced me to some new subjects such as U.S. history, U.S. government, algebra, economics, health and so on. It seemed to be more challenging, but when I completed it, and I received my high school diploma, it was the best reward I could have received. The high school program helped me gain self- confidence as an adult learner and definitely set the starting point for a higher education.

The Adult Education Program. was essential to my current success. It really changed my life. When I started in the adult program, I was the person who thought I had done all I had to do in life by being a mother and a wife. I had no hope of achieving a career not even in my dreams. But the adult education program gave me the opportunity to pursue a career when it seemed that the chances were gone. The adult education program has brought me hope and happiness. It brought me back to life. It has caused such a positive impact on me that I feel younger now than when I started in the program a few years ago!

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