Sheila O’Flaherty has been volunteering at Pecan Park Elementary with Spanish-speaking students for two years. Pecan Park is one of three JPS elementary schools that has students who are English Language Learners (ELLs). Pecan Park has 65 ELLs and one ELL teacher for children in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Ms. O’Flaherty began learning Spanish in 1960 in public school in rural Connecticut. She retired in October of 2015 and has been volunteering with the ELL students at Pecan Park ever since. She volunteers twice a week for a few hours each day.
She said, “It’s exciting working with the kids because I think I am making a difference in their lives.”
Last year she worked with 3rd graders and all her students passed the state-mandated 3rd grade reading test to move on to fourth grade. This year she is working with several second graders and is helping them with their daily assignments. She also enjoys exposing the children to books such as “Fancy Nancy” and Dr. Seuss.
In addition to helping the children learn English, she also assists their parents by interpreting at parent teacher conferences and assists with translating required forms.
Ms. O’Flaherty enjoys working with Spanish-speaking students but is concerned about how the current Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions might impact students. She said that some families have been afraid to send their children to school because of current ICE actions. She hopes that parents make arrangements ahead of time for the care of their children in case anything unfortunate happens to them.
Pecan Park is located at 415 Claiborne Avenue and has population of just over 500 students. Mrs. Wanda Quon has been the principal at Pecan Park for several years and was named JPS administrator of the year in 2014.