By Greg Price
Taber Adult Learning
Thirty-Eight-Year-Old Rodrigo Vega Rivera has made his way to southern Alberta in the last six years for greater opportunity for his young family back in Mexico.
To make the most out of that opportunity, Rivera had heard good things about Taber Adult Learning to maximize his English skills.
“I was talking to a lady here working. One day I told her I wanted to learn English, and she told me you guys have some classes some time,” said Rivera, of meeting with Taber Adult Learning’s Newcomer Services earlier this year.
Working for a local farmer in southern Alberta doing maintenance, labour, and everything in-between, Rodrigo was finding his English was functional, but not to the level he wanted it to be. He was finding himself involved in workplace conversations, but felt like he was on the outside looking in.
“This really helped me a lot. It made it easier to communicate,” said Rivera of his time at Taber Adult Learning’s Drop-in ESL classes, every Tuesday and Thursday, this past fall/winter session. “Before, I was scared to say some words. I knew what they mean, but I wasn’t sure if I was saying right. You guys gave me the right information to write and say words…to put it together. I knew words, but I was saying part words.”
Rivera noted a lot of forward progress in his speaking and writing English, even though Taber Adult Learning’s influence was a mere couple of months.
“I got a lot improvement on my speaking. I’m more confident enough speaking to people or asking for something,” said Rivera.
Back in Mexico, the young man has a blushing bride of 12 years, and a young family of an eight-year-old girl and 10-year-old son. Rodrigo had found regular employment back in his homeland, but found his family unit basically surviving instead of thriving in the paycheque he was receiving. That is why he found his way to the Taber area in recent years to help better support his family.
“This year it has been seven months, last year it was only five months,” said Rivera. “It’s been good for my family. At least now we have enough to grow a little bit. Before, working in Mexico, we barely had enough to live off of,” said Rivera. “Now, working here, saving money. I have a little bit saved for coming years.”
Improved English skills are universal. While Rivera’s augmented literacy skills thanks to Taber Adult Learning helped in his transition as a farmhand in the agricultural hub of southern Alberta, it will serve as a strong foundation back in Mexico in an economy that is becoming increasingly globalized.
“It’ll help me in Mexico, English is spoken everywhere,” said Rivera, who is scheduled to be reunited with his family this month in his travels back home.
Rodrigo admitted to having a few butterflies in his stomach when he walked through the doors of the Taber Provincial Building for his first ESL session with a volunteer tutor. He didn’t know he’d stick with the program, but he’s glad he did in the welcoming environment.
“It was so good. You feel so comfortable for me talking to people. Even meeting new people (volunteer tutors) every time, it was helping me lots. Every person talks about different things,” said Rivera.
Rivera has had many good experiences in his time in southern Alberta, including the moments shared at Taber Adult Learning. But as he gazes outside through the window in one of the many rooms at the Taber Provincial Building, perhaps making his way through the cold, white, heavy stuff he sees on the ground is not one of them. Rodrigo will be enjoying a green Christmas with his immediate family and parents in Mexico, where temperatures hover around the high teens with regularity in December.
“No, I’ll probably not miss it,” said Rivera with a chuckle.
Putting aside the trials and tribulations of the Winter Wonderland that is Taber in December, Rodrigo would recommend the warmth he found in the doors of Taber Adult Learning to anyone looking to improve their English skills as an adult.
“I think what I can say is tell them to come and give it a try. The first class I was feeling a little nervous because I didn’t know anyone,” said Rivera. “After getting to know you (Greg Price) and Rebekah (Fehr), it was so good. It was almost like coming to see a family member. I learned a little more every time. It feels really good here being so friendly.”
Newcomers to the Taber area come to the Taber area all the time to help the agricultural/oil and gas economy hum on a temporary basis, or set up long-term roots to raise a family. In the last two years alone (2019/2020 and 2020/2021 annual reports), Newcomer Services has helped 575 clients in 17 different countries of origin with various services, including ESL.
If you have a worker or family you know of where you think our ESL services would help their lives, please inform them of our organization or give Taber Adult Learning a call at 403-223-1169. You can also log onto http://www.taberdultlearning.com to see the depths of our overall services that help improve lives one person at a time.