Job Opening: Must Speak English

By Daniel Henry

Immigrants have long been trying to notch out a piece of the American dream for hundreds of years.  Many have faced obstacles and roadblocks, but one challenge stands out as being the most difficult for the larger population, learning the English language.

The Clark County School District’s Department of Adult Education has been assisting the growing Spanish speaking community by introducing programs that will help parents of currently enrolled students become more proficient with the English language.  At the completion of the programs, students are given the opportunity to earn a GED, which they can use to better their situation.

In an interview with Jennifer Keiser, instructional coordinator and GED chief examiner for the Department of Adult Education, “There are parents who are only Spanish speakers or are limited English proficient and what they are trying to do in some instances is set a good example for their children, to get them excited about learning, or looking to gain better employment opportunities.”

The larger picture that the Adult Education department has realized however is the impact of the horrible economic factors that are affecting the district and the community.  An example is Whitney Elementary School, located at 5005 Keenan Ave., the school has statistics that show 75 to 85 percent of the children that have or are attending school there have been homeless at some point in their life because of the economic recession and or other factors. We all have at some point felt the downward pull of the recession. The economy has been tough on the whole nation; but none tougher than on Nevada, which is still leading the country in unemployment at 12.7 percent according to the United States Department of Labor. 

Because of these horrible numbers, Keiser pointed out that employers now are looking for a more diversified employee who can read and write in English proficiently and depending on the job, have some type of educational background.  Most of these factors end up being a big incentive for these potential students.  The programs that the school district and mainly the Adult Education department have created and provide make it possible for people to not only attain a better life for their families but also themselves. 

Keiser explains that there are three types of ESL (English as a Second Language) components; basic language comprehension, sentence writing and essay writing.  The availability of these classes is dependent on location. For example, a site might have a single teacher covering all three components, or individual components split between two or three teachers.  She goes on to explain, to earn a GED a person must take social studies to complete the necessary curriculum, but as one can imagine most of these students are immigrants and do not know or even understand American history, so these programs further help in the understanding of this subject for GED completion.

An example that Keiser gives to support these programs was at Quannah McCall Elementary School.  The program there currently has an instructor who teaches GED prep and is fluent in Spanish and English so he is able to assist with bridging the gap between both languages and this helps in the transition to actually taking the GED test.

Another teacher who wants only to be referenced as “A teacher who loves his job” shares that these classes give total autonomy to the students, and that they are in charge of their own education.   He goes on to state that there are “more teachers, more classes and more individual programs that are needed.”  This is for the obvious continued success of the programs and for further growth of the students and the betterment of the community.

Ultimately for most people who end up attending these classes find out through word of mouth, or when they attend a parent night and are informed by the principal of their child’s school that offers the programs.  Parents of elementary school children are encouraged to visit the Adult Education class in the school to get a better sense of what is taking place.

Although, what should not be lost or over looked is the hard work of so many to create, staff, and manage these classes for the benefit of the community.  Not losing sight of the over all goals of these programs – making the Las Vegas valley a better place to live and work in.  All along helping these hard working parents and students attain and carve out their own piece of the American dream that we all hope to attain one day.


United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). Unemployment rates for states. Retrieved from website:

 Clark County School District – Department of Adult Education


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