Mesa residents become teachers to employees at assisted living facility

Posted at 4:42 AM, May 31, 2017

Word by word, sentence by sentence, a small group in a Mesa assisted-living center is breaking down the English language.

"It would help build their courage in trying to speak because some of them can speak very well," says Sandra Cotton. "They just don't have the courage to try."

Cotton is teaching an English class at Fellowship Square Historic, a Mesa assisted-living facility. Cotton lives here. She's a retired school teacher and helped develop the first English Second Language program at Purdue University.

But this class in Mesa is different. It was started after some of the residents at the center thought it would be easier to communicate with staff who only spoke Spanish.

"They're very nice," says Cotton. "In fact, too nice -- sometimes they won’t tell you when they don't understand something so you have to figure it out."

Some of the staff members came in not knowing any English. So they start slow, building on words and phrases. Over time they learn to speak English but there's a new confidence that's building.

"One particular student that didn't really want to speak at all and she's speaking and laughing and feeling pretty good about her English skills," says Cotton.

The program is so successful, the center is now flipping the program and the staff is now teaching the residents Spanish as well.