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Teacher bridges language gap for migrant students

Annie Zelm • Sep 30, 2011 at 5:00 AM

Even before they fully comprehend her words, Gracie Dials’ students understand that she cares.

They see it in her warm smile and the way she gathers them all around the table, inviting them to share as much as they can. They feel it when she spends time with each of them individually, coaching them through word problems and quizzing them on foreign-sounding terms like “mitochondria” as they try to master the parts of a cell.

They’re assured of her concern when she calls their parents at home, just to check in.

And once they get to know her, they’ll confide in her about their toughest subjects outside of school. For more than 13 years, Dials has worked as a bilingual aide, tutoring children of migrant workers during study hall at Willard Middle School.

She never knows how long they’ll stay or if she’ll see them again — several this year will be headed back to their hometowns in Texas, Flordia or Mexico — but she’s known some since they were in kindergarten.

They often return year after year with the harvest as their parents follow the jobs on the farm. These junior high students have dreams of becoming doctors, detectives, and professional soccer players, but they struggle to overcome language barriers and cultural differences.

Read more about this special students and their ambitions in Friday's Register.

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