Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES Program Teaches Much More than English



January 29, 2018

Fernando Gomez loves his job. That is because he not only helps students new to this country get their high school equivalency diplomas, he helps them integrate into society and reach their full potential.
 
Gomez, who has taught at the English as New Language Learners Academy at The Tech Center on the PNW BOCES campus for 16 years, is an energetic teacher. His students are comfortable asking him questions and respond well to his fast-paced approach.
 
Gomez teaches students math, social studies, science, reading and writing. He said that students come in with all levels of proficiency, but that the most important thing for them in learning English is to have a firm literacy in their first language. “The only way you can develop English literacy is if you are strong in your first language,” he said.
 
In addition to learning academic subjects, students in the program study a trade at The Tech Center. They can choose from cosmetology, medical assisting, business, business management, auto body, carpentry or plumbing.
 
The program was developed in response to the needs of school districts in Putnam and northern Westchester that were enrolling significant numbers of immigrant students.
 
In addition to Gomez, the program includes Ellen Sugrue-Dolan, who teaches the English Language classes; Maggie Almonte, the program’s bilingual guidance counselor; Stephanie Carnes, who works as the program’s bilingual social worker; and Jose Proano, who teaches Spanish literacy.
 
One of the primary focuses of the program is enabling students to get their TASC or Spanish TASC (high school equivalency) diploma.
 
“Most of my students work in jobs outside the classroom, so they really work hard to be here,” Gomez said.
 
After completing the program, students go on to work in technical fields or to study in college.
 
Gomez, who also works at Manhattanville College and is a sought-after teacher, said he wouldn’t trade his work at The Tech Center. “I not only get to teach academic subjects, but life lessons like how to integrate into the US,” he said.  “This work is so satisfying because we work every day with students to help improve their lives.”
  
Fernando Gomez teaches in the English as New Language Learners Academy at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES.