Student immigrants among us transition into new atmosphere


photo by Sally Rogal

ESOL teacher Rebecca Reiser gives instructions to her students before handing out a quiz. The goal of the quiz was to help improve the students’ English grammar skills.

Many students deal with switching schools every couple of years, but for freshman Daniel Eyal, a switch in school also meant a change in continent. Eyal, who moved this year from Israel due to her father’s work, has received assistance both socially and academically from CESJDS to ensure a smooth transition.

According to English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher Rebecca Reiser, breaking the language barrier is one of the essential aspects of helping a new student adjust to JDS. To help integrate new students into the community, they are paired with current students with similar interests as them. Director of Upper School Admissions Miriam Stein said that the goal of the buddy program is to help the new students get accustomed to the school socially and academically.

“We hope that they will meet up over the summer so that by the time the school year starts, the new kid will know some other kids at school,” Stein said.

Stein explained that Israeli students sometimes are paired with two buddies: one Israeli who they can easily communicate with in Hebrew, and one American who can teach them about American culture. This system has helped Eyal whose buddy is freshman Sasha Trainor. While the buddy system helps socially, language is still an issue for immigrant students.

“I was in shock when I came here,” Eyal said. “The classes are so different than it is in Israel. It was difficult for me to speak just English with everyone and study not in Hebrew.”

To determine new students’ proficiency in English, Reiser begins the year by giving each student a diagnostic exam. Based on their performance on the exam, she works with each student during their ESOL study hall period to improve their English speaking skills and comfort with the language.

Along with teaching academic skills, such as translating readings into simpler language and highlighting the most important parts of a text, Reiser works with the guidance counselors to address students’ needs beyond academics.

“It can be pretty overwhelming to move to a new country, study in a second language, learn [about] a new school and new culture and try to make new friends,” Reiser said. “I try very hard to make my classroom a safe space where students can ask me questions that they might not feel comfortable asking elsewhere.”

Although much was new for Eyal, she said that she came here knowing some English, which allowed her to communicate with her peers more easily. Therefore, Reiser has helped Eyal with her academic work in English. She was thankful that fellow students, as well as her teachers, were very welcoming and nice toward her.

“The students invited me to sit with them and they also text[ed] me every day. [My teachers] give me more time if I need it, and they ask me if I understand the materials after every class,” Eyal said.

Overall the transition has been smooth for Eyal with the help of the caring and friendly students and faculty at JDS. Although school in America is different than school in Israel, she has managed to adjust to the new learning environment and looks forward to making the most out of her time here.

This story was featured in the Volume 35, Issue 5 print edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on March 22, 2018.