RANTOUL, Ill. (WCIA) — In 2010, Rantoul Township High School had fewer than ten Hispanic students.
But that number doubled year after year as more migrant workers moved to Rantoul. Many of them and their families could not speak English. So RTHS created the ‘English as a Second Language’ program to accommodate them.
Ten years later, 130 students are in ESL. Carmen Brooks took over last year and teaches almost all of them. She says her favorite part is watching her students in their new home.
“What I really like is you get to have them multiple years in a row and you get to see how much they progress over that time,” says Brooks. “Just how they adjust to the school and to the country is really cool.”
One of the students in class is Maycoll Ramos. Him and his family moved to Rantoul in 2016 from Puerto Rico. Like many others, he didn’t speak any English. But he says teachers like Brooks made him want to learn.
“I used to stay after school and practice,” says Ramos. “I used to have like three classes about English and Spanish, just to get used to it. Cause at first I was scared and didn’t really want to do it. Then I was like, ‘I have to deal with it. I’m already here. Let’s just do it. Something new.'”
Students with Hispanic heritage now make up 26 percent of the school. And RTHS is making changes to reflect that.
“It might change the culture of the school a little bit,” says Brooks. “Like eventually we’ll have more of an incorporation of their culture into everything that we do. Like things being written in Spanish around the school and other teachers trying to pick up on Spanish, I think has been really cool.”
Brooks is currently the only full-time teacher in the ESL program. The school says they are looking to add another teacher for next year.