FORT LAUDERDALE/DAVIE, Fla. – A student in Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Fischler College of Education and School of Criminal Justice (FCE&SCJ) has created a program that helps local high school students, who are non-native speakers, develop their English speaking skills. Known as Shark Speak, the once-a-week community-based class centers around a curriculum that teaches teenage students everyday words and phrases.
Eloise Nieto, a junior in FCE&SCJ’s elite teacher preparation program The Fischler Academy, launched the program after watching her students in her classroom, where she works as a language interventionist, struggle with common English terms. Shark Speak helps accelerate the learning of the 100 most commonly used English words and ties them together with items the students recognize and use every day.
“Eloise is leaving a lasting impact, not only here at NSU, but in the community with this program,” said Luke Williams, director of The Fischler Academy. “She embodies what is means to be a Fischler Academy student and we know that with the skills developed here, she will have an edge as she enters the work force and becomes a full-time educator.”
The Fischler Academy is a unique program to develop highly qualified teachers by allowing students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree in four years. It incorporates leading teaching strategies, a mastery-based curriculum and an active learning environment, culminating in a full-time job offer following graduation. During the course work, students become TESOL certified, which awards the students the qualification in the teaching of English for speakers of other languages.
At the same time that the FCE&SCJ students were beginning their TESOL coursework, Daryl Hulce, supervisor of Shark Speak, met a family in the community that spoke no English but had students in school. They had just arrived from Venezuela and asked Hulce if NSU had anything to help people in their situation learn English.
“I presented the idea to our dean and asked if I could hire our students to practice teaching and help people in the community learn English, said Hulce. “That conversation took about three minutes before I was given the green light to proceed.”
When Hulce presented the idea to Nieto, she said she had a group of students that she wanted to help and Shark Speak was launched. Now, she is able to utilize her TESOL certification and put into practice what she had learned to help out her current students.
At the beginning of the four-week program, students are assessed and an individualized plan is developed for them. By playing games and engaging in dialogue aimed at increasing their vocabulary and reducing their accents, students are learning English while also gaining life skills that build confidence, self-esteem and relationships with their peers.
“When I saw these students struggling to communicate in the classroom, I knew I needed to do something to help them,” said Nieto. “It has been so fulfilling to watch them grow, not only in how they speak to each other, but how they open up and become self-assured in who they are.”
The course is a model community service program supported by NSU and is available at no cost for anyone who wishes to enroll. It aims to serve students and families in the process of learning English, at-risk youth, and those who can read and write but struggle to read fluently.
For more information, or to enroll in the next Shark Speak class, contact Daryl Hulce at firstname.lastname@example.org.