Partner Highlight: English Literacy Curriculum for a Growing Program

Kristy Szkudlarek became an Intercambio Network Member after discovering their English literacy curriculum and training.

The program coordinator for Findlay-Hancock County Public Library’s Read for Life Program, Kristy Szkudlarek, was facing a challenge. Though the Read for Life program had historically focused on adult literacy for native English speakers, they were seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers of individuals interested in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). She needed an English literacy curriculum and training program to equip volunteer teachers and support learning in their changing community.

Initially, the immigrant population in Findlay-Hancock County was predominantly from the local Japanese business community. Typically, men would relocate for four-year work assignments in the area’s Japanese businesses, while their spouses would utilize this opportunity to learn English. Over time, the program’s demographics evolved to include more Latinos and community members from Haiti, Venezuela, and beyond.

A fully one-on-one ESOL program prior to 2023, Kristy experienced a sharp increase in demand. Training each volunteer and matching each learner with a teacher was a time-consuming process. Plus, she learned that the curriculum she was using was too broad for many learners. Kristy needed a way to better train and inform the volunteers, and an English literacy curriculum curriculum that truly satisfied the needs of the population she was serving. While attending a literacy workshop, she learned about Intercambio’s curriculum and training program, and reached out to become a network member.

“The Intercambio curriculum and training gives the program legitimacy. It was written by people who actually teach in the classroom, which is a big difference. The training was amazing, because it gives you examples and shows you how to use the book. Many teachers’ guides are just verbiage, but Intercambio’s embedded guide makes a lot more sense.”

Kristy added, “This helped me to feel much more comfortable. My background is not in teaching, so I was nervous, like a lot of volunteer teachers. This curriculum makes it so easy to teach!”

Kristy expressed how meaningful it is to see newcomers feeling included, engaged, and valued. The classroom provides a safe place, not just to learn English, but to build connection, and better understand their new homes.

“In my Level 1 class, we talked about neighbors bringing cookies when you move into a new home. One student shared that they say hi to people, but sometimes others don’t speak back. She felt that no one ever makes eye contact or smiles at her. ‘How do I get them to be friends with me?’ she asked. Many students really want to be engaged and to be a part of the community.

“Another group recently took a field trip to the Parks District. They had no idea that they could go walk on trails or rent a canoe. They asked great questions like, ‘What’s the difference between the zoo and a park?’ It’s so important to have answers to those questions. Intercambio prompted us to do that trip and then gave us the tools we needed,” shared Kristy.

With the support of the Intercambio ESOL curriculum and training, Read for Life is growing! Last summer Kristy decided to pilot group classes to try to meet the growing demand in the community. Her initial attempt in the fall was a great success, with 13 out of 15 students completing the class. Now, the program has expanded to two groups totaling 35 students. After securing a grant for books, last year she provided 143 books to volunteers and students!

“As someone who does not have a teaching or training background, Intercambio gave me the confidence to teach English as a second language, which I find very rewarding. The Confidence & Connections books are great for the students, but they’re also great resources for me as a teacher,” Kristy added.

If you’d like to learn more about our English language curricula, purchasing our ESOL materials or how to become a Intercambio Network Partner, reach out! We’d love to chat!

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