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Published: Tuesday, 8/5/2003

Migrants' kids count on teacher trainees in summer


DELTA, Ohio - Close-up photographs of smiling, gap-toothed kids pepper the halls of York Elementary School.

The parade of pictures, all children of area migrant farm workers, leads to a classroom on the left where Martin Pacheco practiced subtraction yesterday with the help of some green plastic frogs.

“I can close my eyes and count,” he said, squeezing his eyes tight and wrinkling his six-year-old nose as he removed several of the frogs from the group. “One, two, three ...”

Martin is one of more than 130 students who are enrolled this summer in the Region VI Ohio Migrant Education Program, a six-week session aimed at helping the children of migrant workers whose schooling often is interrupted by travel.

While the program is run with federal funds through the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center, it gets classroom help from area colleges, including 19 education majors from Lourdes College in Sylvania.

Karen Roadruck, chairman of the early childhood education department at the private Catholic college, has been teaching in the program since 1995. She uses her kindergarten and first grade classroom to observe some of her college students.

They must complete a week of field experience in a classroom to graduate. In this case, they act as teacher's aides and lead four lessons of their own.

The University of Toledo has assisted with the program as well. Last month, seven graduate students in the college of education brought in engineering-related activities.

Jackie Westfall, 39, a Lourdes sophomore from Liberty Center, said working with the migrant children, most of whom know English, has been incredible.

“They just seem so eager to learn,” Ms. Westfall said. “And when they get it, you see the sparkle in their eyes.”

Making home visits is part of the experience as well.

“I want them to see where these kids are coming from,” Ms. Roadruck said.

Originally, many of the children are from places like Mexico, Texas, Florida, and South America. While the kids are in Ohio, their homes often are pole barns with cement floors.

“I still have one guy who sleeps on a dirt floor on a mattress full of maggots,” she said.

The summer program has classes for children from preschool through eighth grade in Defiance, Fulton, Henry, and Williams counties whose parents have come to pick crops or work in a related business.

“Our purpose is to get the kids out of the field,” director Shirley Tulk said.

Busses bring the students to school in the morning at 8:30 a.m. and they stay until 3 p.m. They receive breakfast, lunch, and a snack and have lessons stressing reading, math, and oral language.

As part of all this, they sing songs, practice daily hygiene, and play learning games. There's also time been for field trips to watch the Toledo Mud Hens, visit the zoo, and go swimming.

For Michelle Swick, 42, a Lourdes junior from Sylvania, it's been a reminder to appreciate the little things and a lovely taste of what's to come as a teacher.

“I just love it,” Ms. Swick said. “I probably could do this every day of my life all day long.”

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