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Mother, daughter learn English from the same desk

Family lessons

Posted: September 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 24, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Mother Elizabeth Alcibar, left, and daughter Fatima Cruz, 12, meet on Thursday on the Sierra Vista Junior High School campus in Canyon Country. (Dan Watson/The Signal)

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The teal-blue walls inside offer a colorful contrast to the beige exterior of bungalow No. 619, which sits tucked away next to netless basketball hoops by the asphalt on the northeastern end of Sierra Vista Junior High School.

During the day, it houses language arts courses for seventh- and eighth-grade students.

At night, it offers lessons in achieving the American dream.

Twelve-year-old Fatima Cruz, of Canyon Country, who immigrated from Central Mexico five years ago, is a student who loves her new junior high school.

“It’s better than elementary school because it’s in different classes,” Fatima said. “(Elementary school) is only in one room, and at Sierra Vista, we changes classrooms and stuff.”

The level-three English language learner is more than conversationally versed in her adopted land’s tongue, which is something her mom is also working to achieve.

“I wanted to come here to find work and for better opportunities,” said Elizabeth Alcibar as her daughter translated into English for her.

Actually, Fatima is almost outspoken compared to her mom, according to the English teacher who instructs both of them.

“Fatima is much more vocal than her mother,” said Rob Isquierdo Jr. “But they share the same overall demeanor — friendly and always smiling with a desire to learn.”

Isquierdo knows this well because from 6-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, he teaches Alcibar and about a dozen other adult English-language learners in No. 619 for a night class at Golden Oaks Adult School, a campus that shares locations with Placerita and Sierra Vista junior high schools.

The night school, just as Sierra Vista does, divides English-language learners into four levels.

Alcibar just began learning this year, so she would be considered level one, or pre-literature, according to Isquierdo.

The classrooms move at much different paces, Isquierdo said, with good reason.

(Golden Oaks) is a much faster-paced situation because we’re trying to get them ready and out there in the workforce,” he said. “A student — they’re not necessarily in a situation where they have to be financially responsible yet — whereas adults, they have to get out there and get a job.”

Alcibar works in a nearby factory and said having her daughter at home to teach her lessons has been a great help.

“I like to learn new things, and I want to learn how to express myself (in English),” Alcibar said.

“I like coming to this school and I want to do it more. I wish more people knew about this.”

It was a matter of chance that she found out about the course in the first place.

In the past, when enrollment is low, the teacher usually asks his students if they have any relatives or family friends who may be interested in the course.

Fatima brought home the information to her mom, who didn’t know she would be placed in a class with her daughter’s teacher.

“This is the weird part — when I checked my class to see who Fatima’s mother was, she was sitting at Fatima’s desk on day one,” Isquierdo said.

Fatima said she enjoys helping her mom learn English, but it’s also an interesting role reversal — sometimes the pair will go over the alphabet, for example, and then Fatima lets her mom know what she should work on.

“She never knew (the alphabet), but she’s getting better and better at it,” Fatima said. “It just feels weird because it’s the opposite now. Instead of her teaching me, I have to teach her.”

psmith@the-signal.com

661-287-5526

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