WellesleyWeston Magazine


Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.

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Page 167 of 211

First, she tutored one student in Natick (who quit), and then, with a teacher friend, led an ESL book group. Soon after, she accepted a one- year assignment in Framingham to expand the city's base of tutors and the continuing education for them. The job brought her in touch with all the ESL players and libraries in the area, including the Friendly Aid Association of Wellesley, which coordinated a two-class program at Barton Road Apartments. She also met Elise MacLennan, the assistant director of the Wellesley Free Library, who welcomed her suggestion to run a conversation class. The class lasted for two years, during which she and MacLennan cemented a working relationship that neither could guess would last for years to come. By that time, her temporary position had ended, and two seemingly unrelated events occurred: Biggers was offered an ESL teaching job at Framingham State — but with only a week to prepare, she turned it down. While she was still upset about that, the classes on Barton Road lost its only two teachers. Her antennae quivered, the light bulb flicked on: She had just spent three years learning how to run an ESL program. This, she was ready for. She floated the idea of a Wellesley program past MacLennan, who already understood the need for one. Statistics backed them up. In the 2010 census, 1,100 Wellesley residents identified themselves as not speaking or understanding enough English. Soon, the two women collaborated to get the initial funding from the Fund for Wellesley. Wellesley's ESL program was off the ground. Now only four years old, the program has serviced about 300 stu- dents from 40 countries and trained 90 teachers. An excerpt from a parting letter from one learner hints at the ripple effects of a welcom- ing program such as this. … In the past year I not only improved English with your help and tutor's help, but also know American culture a bit more. I will have more strength in my future life and will try to have more love and patience to people I will meet. I hope we can stay in touch. Biggers notes her commitment to keeping a strong relationship with- volunteers is as important as it is with the students. She finds and employs experts who train all the teachers and arranges special pro- grams, information exchanges, and enrichment classes for them. 166 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 6 education "the light bulb flicked on" Philippa Biggers

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