The way it’s supposed to be

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in News | Comments Off on The way it’s supposed to be

From Global Sisters Report, May 4, 2017

The way it’s supposed to be

by Carleen Reck

Students work on English language activities at the sisters’ English Tutoring Project. (Sr. Kathleen Koenen)

I grew up in a home where Dad was an organizer, so we grew up expecting everything to be in order. Dad’s workbench had a chalked outline for each tool, arranged from the smallest hammer or screwdriver to the largest. Before we could read, we would line up our Tinker Toy rods by size, shortest to longest. Our building blocks likewise were automatically sorted into small, medium and large.

Is it any wonder that — when I went to Kindergarten — I insisted that in the alphabet, the smaller letter “n” would need to come before the letter “m” which was clearly larger. Everyone in my Kindergarten class who could say the alphabet properly was promoted to the first grade. Alas, I remained in Kindergarten because I was unable to reverse my home culture and refused to admit that somehow “m” should come before “n.” Eventually, I suppose I accepted the illogical arrangement, figuring that “they” just didn’t understand.

All of us can recall ways that we learned how things were “supposed to be.” We are all formed by the culture around us as we shape our ideas and expressions. Today, many children have been uprooted from their early settings where they could develop naturally and comfortably. They have been relocated to a new world, one where people speak with sounds they have never heard and arrange their sentence-words backwards. Learning — rather relearning — will be achieved at a cost. As we search for ways to help immigrants, we need to make the learning process a bit easier for immigrant children.

The English Tutoring Project (ETP), begun in collaboration by several women religious’ communities in the St. Louis area, is an example of a learning program that addresses the differences of immigrant children. Although “pullout programs” in general have been denigrated in many educational settings, the ETP program designers recognized that children who grew up in totally different cultural and language settings would feel freer to try a new language when removed from a classroom of children whose first language was English. These newcomers are able to enjoy mastering new sounds when they are with others who are also discovering that their tongues can make new sounds. They are free to celebrate when they can “arrange their words backwards” with some level of comfort.

A student smiles at the English Tutoring Project. (Sr. Kathleen Koenen)

A special learning area can also be a place where teachers and students can post items that would be either meaningless or laughable in a classroom of native speakers. The English Tutoring Project, for example, can post in its special classroom a sheet where children can record each new plant they recognize and another sheet where they can name each new animal whose name they learn. In that setting, no one laughs at the simple milestones, but all can laugh together at the new world they are claiming. A simple adaptation helps them to expand their knowledge beyond the plants and animals they knew in their home culture.

Educators face some hard-liners who insist that all children should be treated the same in the same setting. That ignores the fact that our Creator apparently enjoyed dropping us into a great variety of cultures and that Jesus Christ insisted that persons with different talents need to be treated differently, that persons of different nationalities need to be accepted and respected.

Why did the women religious in the St. Louis Area decide to provide this program? It all began at a regional meeting of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), where leaders of many congregations were identifying unmet needs in their region. “Immigration” was named over and over — and the sisters recalled that many of their orders came to the U.S. to help immigrants. They determined that special assistance to today’s immigrants would be a very fitting collaborative effort.

Discussion followed with those who ministered in immigrant areas. Apparently many immigrants — because of their backgrounds — trusted the church more than the state and were sending their children to Catholic schools. Although many of those schools were helping immigrant children attend, they were unable to provide any extra help for the children to learn English. The children were respected in their classrooms but received no regular help to deal with the new language and culture. Those children represented an unmet need, well suited to the traditions, interests and skills of the sisters.

So the LCWR regional leaders formed a committee to study and recommend a practical response. The need became evident for tutoring immigrant children in a “safe” space. The program name would make the intent clear: “English Tutoring Project for Immigrant/Refugee Children.” At the time, the schools were using all their classrooms, so an RV was recommended to give immigrant children their own learning area. During this project’s 19 years of service, separate classrooms have become available for the program.

Because the project was to be sponsored by various congregations, a new corporation was needed. So a new nonprofit began, the “St. Louis Area Women Religious Collaborative Ministries” — not a catchy title, but broad enough to include any future initiatives. The Missouri LCWR members offered startup support, as a group as well as through congregational grants.

This group of women religious identified a need and shaped one practical response. Immigrants bring a broad spectrum of needs that invite a variety of responses. Most basic to any outreach, I believe, is an open attitude, one shaped by the recognition of more similarities than differences.

As we meet persons who have recently emigrated from other lands, we might want to recall the unusual patterns we followed in our own homes. The immigrants, too, have learned how things were “supposed to be” in their culture. Just as we learned there were other ways, we need to provide safe settings and supportive ways to accept them and to respect them as they grow. Many models exist. The English Tutoring Project is one of them.

[Carleen Reck, is a School Sister of Notre Dame; she holds a Ph.D. in education, curriculum and instruction from St. Louis University and is one of the founders of the English Tutoring Program.]

Windshield Poetry Brings Smiles

Posted by on May 10, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Windshield Poetry Brings Smiles

Windshield Poetry Brings Smiles

by Adrian, Alondra and Jason

English Tutoring Project students are writing creative windshield poetry. The poetry is about topics such as spring, valentines and love, Christmas, and wishing people a good day. The poetry is for the citizens outside of St. Stephen Protomartyr School.

Students write poetry during ETP class as they learn English at the same time. When the weather is sunny, they deliver poems and put them on parked cars. They slide them under windshield wipers.

Students in ETP want to make people’s day shine by sharing amazing windshield poetry. 🙂 People who have received a poem said that “it made their day!!” One lady sent a thank you card from Tennessee. She found a valentine poem on her windshield after her father-in-law’s funeral and it made her smile joyfully.

The tutor of the ETP students heard of windshield poetry from a news story on television. She thought it would be a great way to “make a difference” and learn English, too!


Diversity Day

Posted by on Feb 15, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Diversity Day

Diversity Day

Diversity Day was celebrated at St. Frances Cabrini Academy during Catholic Schools Week. Students in the school could wear any article of clothing that might have been worn in the country of their heritage. It was a day to celebrate who they are and all of their gifts!

Sr. Kathleen Koennen Interviews on Allman in the Morning Show!

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 in News | Comments Off on Sr. Kathleen Koennen Interviews on Allman in the Morning Show!

Speaker Jones is joined by Sister Katheleen Koennen of the English Tutoring Project.

It is the mission of the ETP to provide on-site assistance to refugee or immigrant families seeking to gain a better grasp of the English language.

ETP Featured in The Messenger

Posted by on Jan 25, 2017 in News | Comments Off on ETP Featured in The Messenger

Check out the Missouri Catholic Conference’s January 2017 issue of “The Messenger.” It’s all about English Tutoring Project!!!


Places – a poem from Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Posted by on Dec 4, 2016 in News | Comments Off on Places – a poem from Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate


There’s a place.

A place with a diluted sense of reality,

and streaming hatred for the differences that reigns inside all of us.

A place where a mirror is a sharp dagger, and a number means more than anything.

A place where ignorance roams and knowledge is chained.

There’s a place.

A place where love radiates throughout the field.

A place where bravery and self-love is encouraged,

and where our differences are accepted.

A place where trees are grown and fish aren’t poisoned.

There are places inside all of us.

There are places in the world.

Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Lam T, 2016 Poet Laureate

Lam T was a seventh grade student of Vietnamese heritage who attended our program in K-2 at St. Frances Cabrini. She entered a poem in the 7GPoetry contest and won first place for the school. The 7GP contest organization published the poem in their annual anthology of poetry.

Fall Poems…

Posted by on Nov 4, 2015 in News | Comments Off on Fall Poems…

Autumn leaves are…
Red like an apple growing on a tree,
Yellow like a star in the sky at night time when I’m asleep,
Brown like chocolate candy in a factory.
Orange like a pumpkin pail on the table.
Autumn leaves swirl all around.

By Rickya, Gr. 5, St. Frances Cabrini Academy

Autumn leaves are….
Red like the apple seeds my dad plants in our backyard,
Orange like the lanterns I make for Chinese New Year,
Yellow like the yellow colored pencils in the classroom.
Leaves falling from the trees while looking at the glimmering sunset.

By Tommy, Gr. 5, St. Stephen Protomartyr

Cinquain Poetry

Gold, orange
Floating, spinning, twirling,
Today I see them

By Alondra, Gr. 3, St. Stephen Protomartyr

Brown, crunchy
Growing, picking, crushing
They make soy sauce.

By Giau, Gr. 3, St. Stephen Protomartyr

Poems from 4th Grade

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in News | Comments Off on Poems from 4th Grade


Ripe, busy

Gather, pick, celebrate

It’s food for winter.


Anthony —— Grade 4


Fast, rough

Defend, run, tackle

They score a touchdown.


Grade 4


Bumpy, heavy

Roll, sit, glow

We make pumpkin pie.


Nataly —— Grade 4


Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in News | Comments Off on ETP on TV

TVinterviewOn August 15, 2013, The English Tutoring Project was interviewed by host Sarah Bernard for STL-TV, a cable access channel
providing informational television programs to the residents of the City of St. Louis. Sr. Rosemary and Board Member Maureen DePriest discussed the history and mission of the ETP and described the services and collaborative nature of the program. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to highlight the ETP’s contribution and the “Good News” of Catholic education in our city. Our program identifies and helps children succeed in the classroom by removing the language barrier and enabling them to receive the blessing of a Christ-centered, Catholic education.



Posted by on Apr 9, 2015 in News | Comments Off on Haikus

Learning about syllables for young students can be both fun and easy when combined with poetry.

Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry consisting of 3 lines and 17 syllables –  and usually about something in nature.

Line 1 — 5 syllables

Line 2 — 7 syllables

Line 3 — 5 syllables

Grades 4-8 had fun reviewing syllables, but also used the Haiku as part of their lesson on Literary forms and Figurative language.  Here are some Haiku Poems from Grades 3-8 on nature.


Three red cardinals

Sitting on a picket fence

Communicating                        ————   Tommie, Grade 5


A day on the farm

Three birds perched on a mailbox

A surprise awaits                 ——— Adjoa, Grade 4


A curious bird

Peering in the gray mailbox

Like someone lonely.            ——Marie,   Grade 6


A windy evening

Beautiful orange sunset

A time to relax      …………. Cesar,  Grade 5