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Panama students

Panamanian elementary school teachers are at Claflin University to learn how to teach English to speakers of other languages.

The Claflin University Intensive English Language Program is providing training and instruction in the English language for 20 elementary school teachers from Panama.

The teachers are receiving eight weeks of intensive coursework in English and in teaching English to speakers of other languages during the program, which ends on March 3.

"The students are in the third week of the program, but we can already see their progress," said Dr. Esther Lee, IELP director and assistant professor of English. "Their English speaking level was pretty low when they arrived. However, they are very motivated, and they really want to learn how to speak and communicate in English."

The teachers are participating in the Panama Bilingue Program, which began in 2014 and will continue through 2019.

The Republic of Panama, which is paying for the program, seeks to train at least 2,000 teachers per year in bilingual education and to prepare 20,000 high school students and 30,000 elementary students.

The program includes three parts: teacher training, after-school program and kids.

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"This is the fourth cohort of students in Claflin's IELP and TESOL training programs from Panama," Lee said. "Claflin's partnership with Panama began in 2016 and we hosted English teachers for eight weeks and high school graduates for 16 weeks in 2017. We also had elementary school English teachers from Panama in 2018."

In addition to the classes, the students participate in an English conversation partners program for three days each week. Claflin students volunteer to interact with and engage the teachers, to help improve their English speaking skills and make them more familiar with the campus community. The Panamanian teachers also visit Edisto Elementary School and Edisto Primary School on Fridays to observe students, teachers and the classroom environment.

"This is a great experience. The American teachers are very helpful, and I am learning a lot of English," said Dacyana Murillo, one of the teachers from Panama. "I like Claflin's atmosphere."

Alberto Aguirre is also enjoying his visit to Claflin and Orangeburg.

"Everyone is so nice and helpful,” Aguirre said. "It's very interesting being here for the first time. I am learning a lot with the help of the professors and my partners. I feel my English is improving each day."

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