From the moment she immigrated to the United States in 1999, Lucila Reyes, a native of Mexico, always knew she wanted to work as a teacher .
But Reyes, who has 15 years of experience as an elementary school teacher in Mexico, also became aware that to find a teaching job in her newly adopted country, she would have to have a bachelor's degree from an American university.
Not yet fluent in English, Reyes, 37, saw no way of enrolling for university-level courses until the day she met Lola Orellano-Pérez, director of the Texas A&M International University International Language Institute (ILI) at a free, basic English class offered at a local community center.
After hearing Reyes' professional aspirations, Orellano-Pérez advised Reyes to enroll full-time at TAMIU to study English as a Second Language (ESL) so that she could then qualify to take regular university courses.
Reyes followed Orellano-Pérez's advice and this Spring, after having met all of her English requirements, she has been admitted to the TAMIU College of Education to begin classes leading to a bachelor's degree in education.
"I'm very happy," Reyes said grinning, "I'm very excited and I can't sleep."
Like Reyes, hundreds of students dream of succeeding in the United States and enroll in ESL courses offered at TAMIU.
Orellano-Pérez said intensive and semi-intensive ESL courses at TAMIU are designed to fully immerse students into an English-speaking environment.
"Our program recreates a total immersion situation because students are thinking, writing, speaking and reading in the language they are learning," Orellano-Pérez said, "This way, students achieve fluency faster."
Also, students who successfully complete level six of ESL at TAMIU now qualify to register for regular university-level courses without taking the previously required TOEFL exam.
Registration for ESL day and evening courses until Monday, Jan. 26. Classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 20. No late registration fee will be assessed. Those interested must first take a placement test to determine their level of English knowledge by visiting the ILI, located in Pellegrino Hall, room 302. The office phone number is 326-2136.
Orellano-Pérez said most ESL instructors at TAMIU hold master's degrees in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and have many years of experience teaching English as a Second Language.
"Our instructors have taught many different levels of English and they are specially trained in this field," she said, "In our classes, students are exposed to the newest teaching methodologies and up-to-date teaching approaches."
In addition, a computer lab allows ESL students to practice English using special language learning software, Orellano-Pérez said.
Reyes said she is glad she decided to learn English at TAMIU.
"The classes were excellent," Reyes said, "Every time I would go to class, instructors treated me like I was a very important person. They heard my needs, and if I was lacking in certain areas, they gave me advice so that I could improve in those areas."
Reyes said once she graduates from TAMIU she hopes to become a special education teacher and work at a local elementary school. While she is attending university, Reyes is also working as a teacher assistant at Perez Elementary School.
"I always follow my objectives," Reyes said, "Time passes fast and you have to take advantage of opportunities you have. At the very beginning, I didn't speak English well and was a little ashamed of speaking it. But now, even though I make some mistakes when I speak it, I feel like I'm trying my best."
Like Reyes, Miguel Angel Moreno, a native of Nuevo Laredo, is also close to completing level six of ESL at TAMIU and enrolling in university-level courses at TAMIU next Fall.
Moreno, 19, hopes to become an economist some day and has been taking ESL classes since last year to accomplish his goal.
"I want to attend an American university because this will prepare me for jobs on a global level," Moreno said. "Also, I look forward to becoming a TAMIU business student and meeting people from all over the world. I want to network with them and maybe if they like what I have to offer, this will lead to more opportunities in the future."
For further information on the ESL classes at TAMIU, please contact Orellano-Pérez at 326-2136, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit offices located in Pellegrino Hall, 302. University office hours are 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.