Always Adapting: The ELC Responds to Educational Needs of New Arrivals from Ecuador 

Students sit in a classroom, facing the front wall where an ELC volunteer is instructing.

Always Adapting: The ELC Responds to Educational Needs of New Arrivals from Ecuador

In Minneapolis and across the country, more and more people are arriving from Ecuador, seeking to  build lives in the United States and looking for low-barrier opportunities to learn English.

Since late 2022, the number of Ecuadorian students attending classes at the English Learning Center has significantly increased, contributing to a major surge in the size of our learning community. In 2023, the English Learning Center served more than twice as many students as in 2022. This January, 44% of all ELC students were from Ecuador.

To better support this growing community, the ELC has adapted how we schedule and conduct classes, and adjusted how we interact with students.

Staff Learning Language to Support Students

Driven by the increase in students from Ecuador, Spanish has overtaken Somali as the most common first language among our students. While our students speak more than 30 primary languages, the majority of our students are now Spanish speakers.

We teach all our classes in English and prioritize communicating with students in English, as immersion-based learning is a best practice in adult education. Many new students expect to interact in Spanish, which is a new experience for our staff and volunteers. While we continue to teach classes in English, our staff have started informally learning Spanish with the intention of helping students register for classes and feel welcome at school.

More Time Invested in Registering Students for Classes  

The English Learning Center offers walk-in student registration during school hours, and we do not limit how many students can register each day. Often, there are lines of students ready for their turn to register and begin their ELC journey. With the high volume of new students, our staff are spending significantly more time each day registering new students and administering placement tests.

Increasingly Large Class Sizes

Most new students from Ecuador are initially testing into the lowest three of our six levels of English classes. As a result, our lower-level classes are currently much larger than our upper-level classes, especially in the evenings.

To accommodate everyone more comfortably and keep class sizes small, the ELC has started splitting some lower-level classes into two classrooms. These changes require repurposing space in the building, scheduling more evening volunteer teachers for our lower-level classes, and students sometimes needing to share class materials.

Steadfast Support for English Language Learners

Since our founding in the 1980s, our school has been responsive to waves of immigration to the Twin Cities. The English Learning Center remains dedicated to supporting all our students, and these recent changes are all part of a long history of providing a foundation in English language skills that helps our students unlock the goals they hold for themselves and their families in the United States.


How Can I Help?

A hand holds up four books donated to the English Learning Center

In-kind donations of books such as these allow us to keep expanding our library and help our students learn English both in and outside the classroom.