Poway Adult School’s ESL Teachers Build Relationships and Pathways to Transform Students’ Lives

Two women stand in a classroom.
Portrait of ESL teachers Jacquie Uriell, left, and Ann Fisher, right, at Poway Adult School where they teach English classes and help students create career plans. Photo by Charlie Neuman

by Nicole Carr

“It is intrinsic motivation and relationship building which enables Poway ESL teachers to create a pathway for student success,” says Jacquie Uriell, Poway’s Lead ESL Teacher.

Along with Co-Lead ESL Teacher Ann Fisher, Uriell provides literacy services to adult learners who want to become fluent in the English language through the Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education Program. Uriell and Fisher also help their students acquire relevant job skills and industry-recognized certifications. Although both teachers began their careers in K-12 schools, they love teaching in adult education and can’t imagine going back.

Uriell, a 20-year Poway Adult School veteran and recipient of multiple teaching awards, tailors individualized development plans for each of her new students. These plans relate to career preparation, academic studies or training programs aimed at helping them reach their career and personal objectives. Uriell places a strong emphasis on facilitating open communication that enables her to assess their specific needs.

“I have an innate desire to assist others; it’s in my DNA. When there’s a need to help others, I answer the call to serve,” says Uriell.

In addition to creating development plans, Uriell helps students overcome obstacles in their educational training, such as limited childcare or transportation needs.

“The strength of Poway’s ESL Program is building relationships, and a strong learning community helps students build confidence to reach goals, make friends and thrive in their daily lives,” adds Uriell.

Uriell has seen many success stories, including a recent student who was struggling with English fluency, as well as being unfamiliar with effective job-search techniques. Thanks to Uriell’s strong connection with this student, she was able to help them build essential career preparation and interviewing skills, ultimately leading to a promising job.

Uriell says many students use their new language skills to secure employment or assist family members with medical appointments by serving as English language translators.

“Learning English has a direct application to day-to-day successes—what students learn today; they can use tomorrow,” she says.

“I employ an agile approach to provide wraparound services for building careers, addressing food and housing insecurities, and attaining personal and educational goals.”

Ann Fisher, Lead ESL Teacher/Student Adviser

Ann Fisher, an 11-year Lead ESL Teacher at Poway, has also earned multiple teaching awards and serves as a Student Advisor, assisting new students in establishing individual educational and career development plans. Fisher helps students set goals because research shows students who have a goal in mind—and can see a vision of themselves in the future—are far more likely to succeed.

Another primary objective for Fisher is to remove barriers among disadvantaged students, creating a positive trajectory that leads them toward fulfilling careers and breaking generational cycles of poverty.

“I am deeply connected to this work and the students I serve,” says Fisher. “Helping non-native learners in the Poway community learn English so they can help their own children in school and function in society is a daily accomplishment that brings me incredible job satisfaction.”

Fisher also has a positive impact on students through her role as the Poway Adult School’s Student Advisory Council Advisor. In this capacity, she collaborates with ESL, CTE, GED and Basic Skills students to develop leadership skills and improve common campus areas, such as the student lounge and picnic areas. These activities allow Fisher to forge bonds with students and implement strategies to further assist them in achieving their goals.

“I employ an agile approach to provide wraparound services for building careers, addressing food and housing insecurities, and attaining personal and educational goals,” says Fisher. “By being a good listener, I get to know the students, which makes mentoring easier and establishes personal connections that build trust and lasting relationships.”

For more information, visit https://powayadultschool.powayusd.com or call (858) 668-4012.