PASADENA >> Veronica Yepez, a teacher at Blair High School, began a recent math lesson with what may seem like a basic question.
“If you have a ruler, please take it out. Who remembers what a ruler is? What is a ruler?”
A few of her students, all of whom were between the ages of 14 and 18, raised their rulers to demonstrate to their classmates.
“If you don’t have one, it’s OK,” she said, before repeating the phrase in Spanish — a habit she’s adopted after years of teaching students who are new arrivals to the U.S., primarily coming from Central American countries. “Si no tienen una, no hay problema.”
Her lesson, which focused on graphing ordered pairs, spanned subject areas and educational levels. Some students were still learning the English word, ”ruler.” Some had never used a ruler, let alone had a name for it.
Yepez has to consider these types of issues daily in her role as a teacher for Blair’s International Academy in Pasadena, which exclusively serves students who have arrived in the United States within the past 12 months. The program, which has welcomed students from 30 countries in its nine years, serves as a transitional education space where students can learn and adjust to their new country before immersing themselves in a mainstream classroom.
There is a broad range of students in the program. Right now, most of the 120 students who are enrolled in the program hail from countries like Mexico and Guatemala and have…
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