Hispanic students from North, Central and South Americas are represented at Anderson Elementary School and with that, comes a host of cultures and cultural differences.
Students, faculty and staff gathered Friday at Anderson Elementary School to celebrate and explore those differences with a Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration.
About 475 students in grades K through 5 moved throughout the school sampling authentic foods such as arroz con pollo made Venezuelan style and handmade tamales.
“Welcome to Mexico,” Julie Chelli, an English as a new language teacher at AES, bellowed enthusiastically as students entered the tamale room.
The tamales were made by Alexa Renteria, an English as a new language teacher at AES, and members of her family.
Hard work is something her parents instilled in her. Her mother and late father came to the United States from Mexico about 30 years ago.
“They were like, ‘you’ve got to go to college, you’ve got to get your degree,’” she said.
“My mom is a housekeeper. My dad, before he passed away, was doing landscaping. He was like, ‘this is not the life that I want for you and your siblings. I want (you to have) a better life.’
A better life, for many, begins with education, which can be difficult if it’s not in one’s native tongue.
Renteria and Chelli try to help such students learn English.
“These families trust us with their babies,” she said with tears in her eyes.
Chelli, who teaches students in the younger grades, said her students typically come in knowing little to no English.
“They can’t point to a story and find a bird. They can’t find a picture of the sun. They can’t say those simple words,” she said, explaining what she loves about her students.
“We were learning about the letter “I” and we had ice cream. A sweet little girl comes up to me and says, ‘I love ice cream,’ Those were her first words ever uttered in the English language. They’re so brave.”
Martha Raudales, who serves as English as a new language liaison, praised the ENL students saying they were “hard working” and “hungry to learn English.”
This article appeared in The Herald Bulletin.