Jose Cisillas speaks English fluently, but the Nashville transplant only learned to read and write in his native language of Spanish in school. So when his daughter Kristie, a student at LEAD Southeast Middle, had questions about her homework in English, Cisillas was frustrated that he couldn’t help.

“I feel bad because I can only do basic things,” Cisillas said.

Cisillas learned that his daughter’s school, LEAD Southeast, offered parents English classes at night and didn’t hesitate to enroll. He and his wife, Lucia Lopez, attend the classes twice each week and have worked their way up to the Level 3 coursework.

Cisillas says while the roles are reversed right now— Kristie helps her parents with their English homework— he’s excited to see the progress they’ve made in just a few short months attending classes.

“It’s amazing, like a dream, kind of. They are really grateful. They understand more and it makes it easier for them,” Kristie, 11, said.

LEAD Southeast, an open-enrolled charter school in the Antioch community, welcomes immigrant and refugee students and their families from all over the world, a majority of whom are Hispanic and Egyptian. Many of these families are eager to integrate into the community but struggle because they do not speak the language.

Sensing an opportunity to serve both families and students, LEAD Southeast began offering English classes to parents in January 2018 and regularly teach about 50 students on Tuesday and Thursday evenings each week during the school year.

Nearly a dozen certified ESL teachers volunteer their time to teach adult students in small groups. The students take a placement test when they enter the program and subsequently every three months to determine which of the six levels of coursework is the best fit.

This fall, LEAD opened the classes to anyone in the community who wanted to learn English. Iryena and Viktor Martseniuk, who have grown children, moved here two years ago from the Ukraine. They decided to enroll in the English classes to help them adapt to life in Nashville after living in the Ukraine for most of their lives.

“When you don’t speak English and don’t understand, it’s difficult,” Iryena said.

The couple is now excelling in their classes and praised their volunteer teachers for helping them to learn quickly.

Both the Cisillas and Martseniuk families encourage anyone who is looking to learn English to join their community. Many of the families have become friends and get together outside of class.

“I love it. It’s a good place. There’s not many schools around here that have these kind of classes,” Cissillas said.

If you are interested in attending LEAD Southeast’s adult English classes, email Erin Molitoris, the school’s Family and Community Engagement coordinator, at erin.molitoris@leadpublicschools.org.