ESL and ELD Speech Competition is About More than Winning

Judges at WCI speech competition. Photo by Ahmet Y.

As a peer mentor in an ELD (English Literacy Development) class, I see first hand the ways in which students improve their understanding and use of the English language, something I’ve taken for granted my whole life.

On February 27th through March 2nd, students from WCI’s ESL (English as a Second Language) and ELD classes began presenting speeches in their classrooms showcasing their English writing and speaking abilities in hopes of having the opportunity to compete against other WCI students and move on to compete against students from the region at Eastwood Collegiate. 

I began taking the peer mentoring course this year, unsure of what to expect. Through the first six weeks of the course, I have learned so much and have seen the students I help improve their English language drastically.  I have had the opportunity to help lots of the students in the ELD A and B categories with their speeches as I help out in room 306 with Mrs Malo and Mrs Fisher.  

On March 4th, In school competitions took place in order to determine the winners who would compete at Eastwood. The six winners in each of their categories were the following:

  • Fahad A-S for ELD A and B
  • Fardowsa A for ELD C
  • Abdulmajid A for ELD D and E
  • Xinyue D of ESL A and B
  • Ali K of ESL C
  • Elina T of ESL D and E

On March 10th, a week later, the winners from WCI along with family, friends, teachers and supporters were off to Eastwood to take on Forest Heights, Galt and Eastwood. It felt like witnessing a family reunion, watching students and staff greet each other with hugs and handshakes.

As the competition concluded, it was clear that every student who participated left a winner. Fardowsa officially won for her speech titled, “My mother,” in which she described the qualities that make her mother important to her.

Fardwosa. A, winner of the ELD C division at Eastwood. Photo taken by Mrs Malo

Having the courage and bravery to be able to go on a big stage and speak a language that you just recently began learning is extremely difficult, and everyone did an amazing job.  

Lila Read, Associate Director of WRDSB, shared closing remarks on this year’s annual ESL/ELD speech competition that were inspirational. She really wanted to emphasize the importance of students’ voices, the wisdom they have, and the community we create. While reflecting on the speeches, Lila shared how moved she had been, given the numerous tissues she went through. 

All in all this was once again a very successful event that brought students together from other schools who may be facing the same challenges. 

As for its history, this is the second annual ESL/ELD speech competition, but the first year that included WCI and Forest Heights.  Previously it had just been Eastwood and Galt, given the programs they offer to ELL (English Language Learners).  

At this time last year, WCI’s ELD program just started up so participating in the competition was not possible. After lots of hard work throughout the year, WCI was ready to compete in its first ESL/ELD competition.  

When I asked Ms Schulze, Department Head of ESL/ELD at WCI, her thoughts on this competition and the students she works with, she said “I’m in awe of these students each day because of their resilience to bounce back after the tough and unfair things life has forced upon them.  Today I was reminded just why newcomer students are my heroes. We are so proud of them.”

Schulz shared her appreciation of all the dedicated teachers, educational assistants, and peer leaders who helped students with their speeches.

Ms Schulze speaking to the audience for the WCI Speech Competition. Photo by Ahmet Y.

Personally, I believe that being able to create friendships with ESL/ELD students should not be something people fear or think is hard. I’m extremely fortunate to get to work with students in room 306 and learn about their lives almost everyday.