Goodwill, library offer English classes learning English

Kenzo Gardner, an English instructor with Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette, standing, helps Marisol Valdez. Seated at left is Faustino Castellanos. Contributed photo

It’s a bit ironic: Classes,-not-so-much-by-the-book, are being offered in The Dalles Library.

Each Tuesday morning a focused group gathers at The Dalles Wasco County Library to take advantage of a no-cost English as a Second Language (ESL) class presented by Goodwill Industries of the Columbia Willamette (GICW).

Using a teaching style geared toward inspiring confidence, expert instruction encourages dialogue in English. Students come to for a variety of reasons, including wishing to better support their children or be better understood by their coworkers.

Friendly and chatty, Norma Ruiz comes with a good attitude and humor. Owner of the dance company Ballet Folklorico, Norma’s goal is to improve communication with her costumers. While Norma tried taking English classes through the college, she says it was boring and she couldn’t focus.

Kenzo Gardner, GICW ESL instructor, said that while the class integrates community college standards, it delivers them in a nontraditional manner: Through conversation.

“I draw lessons off of life experience and encourage the students to use English to tell their own story,” Gardner explained.

Prior to class, the students chat comfortably and catchup with one another. Gardner encourages networking, and many of the classmates are also neighbors. When class begins, the ease continues. It’s not uncommon for the more advanced students to support others who struggle.

One more advanced student is Faustino Castellanos. Formerly from California, this ESL student works at the local glass company, Cardinal. Five months ago, he moved to The Dalles to give a better life to his family, including his two girls. Already well spoken in English, Faustino wants more. “I want to write in English with good grammar,” he said.

Just down the table sits soft spoken Claudia Apodacci, a local resident for 10 years. Her hope is to communicate better with her Motel 6 management team and perhaps get a raise. But her greatest wish, she shares with the class, is to become the best mom possible for her children.

Rosalba Balle, a Mosier resident of 15 years, nods her head, “I want to better understand what my daughter’s teacher says.”

“We are thankful for the library,” said Gardner. “Being allowed this classroom space has enabled me to serve individuals who are already using the library’s services to better themselves.”

Enriching the lives of the community is an offering libraries are known for. “We are thrilled to partner with Goodwill to provide this class,” says Assistant Library Director Amy Schoppert.

“It’s gratifying to watch the students take full advantage of the class and take charge of learning,” Gardner said.

Thanks to a great community partner, students make their own academic magic in the fun setting while becoming more self-reliant.

For more information on Goodwill’s free The Dalles ESL class contact Kenzo Gardner at

Revenues raised from the sale of donations fund all of Goodwill’s free job services.

To learn more, visit

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