Waterport woman is state’s ESL teacher of the year

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 June 2013 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Linda Redfield, an English as a Second Language teacher, is pictured with a former student Jose Iniguez, who became an American citizen last October.

WATERPORT Thirty years ago Linda Redfield started going to local migrant labor camps, meeting with farmworkers to teach them English. They would sit at picnic tables after the workers often had long days in the field.

Redfield in three decades has developed a family literacy program for the workers, welcoming women and children to the World Life Institute school on Stillwater Road.

Students learn English while using computers, making pottery and learning the guitar. They study citizenship as well. Some of her students have gone on to college.

One former student, Jose Iniguez, became a citizen last October. He is an orchard manager and part-owner of the 500-acre Lamont Fruit Farm. He first started meeting with Redfield in 1995, when he knew very little English.

“She’s very passionate about it,” Iniguez said about Redfield and her role as teacher. “Working with her was an important first step for me. She does a lot for the community that people don’t know about.”

She is well known by members of the New York State Association of Adult Continuing Education Programs, which named her “Teacher of the Year” during a ceremony in Albany last month.

Redfield was nominated for the award by Sue Diemert, the literacy coordinator for the Orleans-Niagara BOCES. She praised Redfield for developing the program that includes families, and teaches many skills.

“She is the glue that makes this all happen,” Diemert said before a graduation program this evening. “She holds it all together.”

Some of the pottery created by ESL students at the World Life Institute in Waterport.

There were 35 students who received certificates for learning English and other skills during the graduation program. They learned the skills after working at local farms and Intergrow’s hydroponic tomato site in Gaines.  The workers were from Mexico, Puerto Rico, China, the Ukraine, Indonesia and Brazil.

They meet for class at the WLI site on Stillwater Road or at Hoag Library in Albion.

Redfield pushed for a broadened family literacy program so more women and children could learn with their husbands and fathers. In 2004, she partnered with BOCES and the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council to offer pottery for women. They would learn English while creating art.

“The whole families come and are served,” Redfield said. “It’s wonderful getting to know the people.”

The program is unusual, especially in a farming community, Redfield said.

“The workers are very happy they can get these services in a rural area,” Redfield said.