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ESL Tech Connect Helps Families Partner in Student’s Education

Families that left the recent ESL Connect evening at Cherokee Elementary really felt like partners in their student’s education. For most of the families, technology and language barriers had kept them from being able to view their student’s grades and assignments, check on their nutrition account, or to be able to read communications from the district in their language of preference.

The focus that evening was to make sure every one of the 65 attendees was able to login and use Home Access Center (HAC), One Login, EZ Pay and Canvas (either on their phone or on a supplied Chromebook). And in an hour and a half, that mission was accomplished.

The Cherokee community came together to put on the ESL Connect event -- including the school principal, assistant principal, the ESL teacher, eight translators, some high school volunteers for childcare, PTA members, Parent Welcome Ambassadors, and support from the technology department. Dinner and childcare were provided. The evening was an opportunity to not only help families with technology, but to build relationships with the school.

Families first watched some short videos that were closed captioned in Spanish about each of the technology tools. From there, family members visited various stations. Translators were on hand to assist families as needed. Each station was devoted to one of the technology tools and had specific tasks that had to be accomplished. For example, at the OneLogin table, the families had to log in, access the SchoolMessenger communication tool and make sure that they were set up to receive communications from the district and school in their own language.

“There is often a lot of anxiety around all of the digital tools,” said Leah Aguilar, Lakota’s Parent Engagement and Community Outreach Coordinator. “But we wanted to show families that you don’t have to be an expert at technology to use them. That there are people here to help.”

“There was so much excitement about being part of the team helping parents,” continued Aguilar. Even when three families were late, arriving near the end of the event, the ESL Connect team embraced the opportunity to help even more families.

She said the translators all want to be part of the next one. The technology support person who helped with the evening event said he was happy to be part of such a great success and wants to help with future events.

“Families could now see their child’s work -- they had never been able to see it before,” said Aguilar. “Now they can partner with the teacher on what the next steps for learning might be for the student. Now they can partner with the teacher in their child’s education, regardless of language. The event really just helped add that parent or guardian back onto the team.” Many teachers were on hand that evening to help facilitate that process.

“I just can’t rave enough about how amazing this pilot ESL Connect event at Cherokee was,” said Aguilar. She is also looking to partner with the Faith Alliance during their summer lunch program as well as with Reach Out Lakota’s back to school program to help families make the connections they need. In addition, the annual Welcome to Lakota event for new families will include some of this tech 101 support. Aguilar also hopes to hold more opportunities like this to help families at other schools in the coming months.