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Fri, Sept. 20

Column: Poynter’s pointers help adults learn English

The ESL graduates experienced a reunion of sorts. From left are Judith Zuniga, Zofia Kania, Rich Poynter, Andy Plewa and Margarita Wickstrom.
Courtesy photo

The ESL graduates experienced a reunion of sorts. From left are Judith Zuniga, Zofia Kania, Rich Poynter, Andy Plewa and Margarita Wickstrom.

Dexterity. Diversity. Livability. These are among the refinements and enhancements cushioning the ESL program at Yavapai College while helping its graduates bridge any cultural gaps.

ESL? That translates to English as a Second Language, which is an adult basic education program comprising GED and ESL classes instructed by Rich Poynter, with the goal being to help students get into and better themselves in the workplace. “I taught Tuesday and Thursday nights at YC in Prescott,” Poynter said, “but since my initial involvement in 2002, when there were a lot of classes in Prescott, there are now very few,” as most classes are now conducted in Prescott Valley “because that’s where the students are.”

Poynter retired from teaching in 2014, but I huddled for an overview with him and four of his graduates last month at the Budget Host Sierra Inn on White Spar Road in Prescott. Why the Budget Host as the host site? Well, that’s because one of the graduates, Andy Plewa, who came to the U.S. from Poland with his wife Maria in 1984, bought the motel in 1999 after relocating to Prescott from their initial stateside home in Chicago. For sure, a very enterprising couple.

One of the other interviewees also had Polish roots. She’s Zofia Kania, who came to the States in 1990 with her husband. Prior to resettling in Prescott they lived in Colorado, where they owned and operated a hotel for a number of years. And during that time Zofia — mother of two children and grandmother of three — pitched in and worked in various capacities at the hotel such as cleaning, baking, laundering and other needed chores, but her limited acquaintance with the English language made it difficult, she said. She is now reveling in the luxury of her bilingualism provided by Poynter, though, following her arrival in Prescott 11 years ago.

Moving along from Poland to Mexico, meet Margarita Wickstrom, who came to the U.S. from Hermosillo, in the state of Sonora — Arizona’s neighbor to the south – in 2012. She was a distinguished journalist with a Sonora newspaper for 23 years before moving to Prescott, with her assignments over the years including trips to points in the U.S., India, Korea and Italy. Her family includes four male children and eight grandchildren. She’s retired now from the workaday world, but is putting to good use the knowledge of her second language gained through the YC program by coupling it with her native tongue while teaching Spanish on a volunteer basis one day a week at the city library in Prescott and one day a week at her home. How’s that for spreading the knowledge to others … gratis!

The fourth interviewee also hails from Mexico. She’s Judith Zuniga, who is from the southwestern state of Jalisco, which borders the Pacific. Judith, who earned her industrial engineering degree from Jalisco’s Universidad de Guadalajara, is in the business of pleasing the Prescott populace’s palates along with her husband, Fernando. They own, and Judith manages, the LeBonita eatery in the Food Court of the Gateway Mall, where Mexican cuisine and pizza prevail. And Fernando is co-owner and manager of the Plaza Bonita restaurant on East Gurley Street, where Mexican food is predominant. Their family includes one son.

Yes, Poynter’s pointers have broadened lots of horizons, as noted in the above sampling, with the only regret I encountered coming from his former boss at the college, ESL’s program director, Craig Lefever. Reflecting on that 2014 retirement, he said that he “really misses having Rich as a teacher. He was an excellent instructor!”

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