The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
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    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
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    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Learning the language: English class 2010.03.24

Written by David Green.


“How may I help you?” asks Morenci Elementary School teacher Melissa Elliott.esl.elliott.jpg

“I would like to cash my check,” answers Gaudencio Cortes. His statement doesn’t come out smoothly, but it’s easy to understand his request.

Melissa doesn’t let him off that easily.

“Could I see some ID?”

Gaudencio pretends to take a card from his wallet.

“Do you have an account with us?” Melissa asks.

“Yes,” Gaudencio answers.

“Oh, I need you to sign the check,” Melissa tells him and hands the paper back.

“Could I borrow a pen?” Gaudencio asks, with a little help.

“Do you want small bills or large bills?” she asks.

That pretty much covers everything that might be experienced when Gaudencio goes to the bank with his paycheck from the Bruinsma Dairy northeast of Morenci.

Next it’s Pilar Cuayahuitl’s turn to go through the routine.

Pilar is the reason that Melissa is leading this informal class in English as a second language.

Pilar has lived in the United States for 10 years, but she still speaks her native Spanish. She once started to take an English language course in Adrian, but soon dropped it. It was difficult to arrange travel to the class and it wasn’t quite what she was after.

She started to spend time in Mrs. Elliott’s class last year when her daughter, Mariel, was in first grade. She thought it would be a good way to learn more of the language. That led to the start of the class, not only for Pilar but for the parents of other students, as well.

Pilar invited some of her relatives to attend and five sessions were scheduled last fall. A few other family members of local dairy workers have shown up to attend the additional 10 classes that were set up for the winter. Today marks the final session.

Some weeks only a couple students attend. Other weeks as many as a dozen appear in Melissa’s classroom. Work schedules often make attendance difficult.

Although Melissa has a good command of Spanish, she learned a more formal approach in a classroom and doesn’t consider herself an expert by any means.

That’s where Dora Cortes comes into play. Dora, a sister-in-law of Gaudencio, lives in Wauseon and met Melissa at a family function. She agreed to serve as an assistant, and she hasn’t missed a session since.

In addition to banking, class sessions have covered using the telephone to call 911; visiting the doctor; learning address and phone number; learning terms that might be encountered on the job; and learning phrases that could be useful when calling the school.

“We decide at the end of each class what will be discussed next,” Melissa said.

There’s always plenty of repetition with each topic.

“Most of them understand a lot of English, but they haven’t taken the time to learn to speak it,” Melissa said.

In many cases, a person’s husband or wife can communicate well and one speaks for the other when necessary. The children are all bilingual and they often handle the translating.

“It really takes a lot of practice,” Dora said.

That’s a hindrance to Pilar because her husband, Armando, doesn’t have the patience to teach her.

“The most difficult thing about living here is not knowing the language,” Pilar said. “And the winter,” she added.

The inability to communicate brings  restrictions to life in the U.S. and if she doesn’t learn to communicate in English, she’d rather return to Mexico.

Leticia Acosta agrees. It’s terrible not to understand, she says, and she wants to learn the language both for herself and to create a better life for her child, who is scheduled to be born in June.

Melissa understands the frustration. Her father was in the U.S. Air Force and she remembers spending a year in Korea, unfamiliar with both the language and the culture.

Mastering the local tongue goes beyond a simple matter of communication.

“It feels good for them to learn,” Dora said.

Melissa plans to resume classes in the fall, maybe in a more formal setting.

• Twelve members of area Mexican families have signed up for a CPR/first aid course. Melissa is working with Morenci police chief Larry Weeks to organize the two four-hour sessions that will feature instruction and videos in Spanish.

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