Woodlawn offers ESL service learning opportunity

KNOXVILLE – Woodlawn Christian Church is offering service learning opportunities for volunteers as ESL teachers for international students on every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday evening.

ESL classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7-9 p.m., Fridays at 7:30-9:30 p.m., and Sundays at 9:30-10:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.-noon.

On weekdays, the classes consist of group prayer, a short time of group singing, and sessions with international students and their teachers. On Sundays, the sessions involve a Bible study with leadership from Matt and Hope Hixson in the first session or Georgia Panya in the second.

The goal of the ministry is to point international students to Christ while assisting them with their English pronunciation.

“It’s really just a short-term mission on a Friday night,” Janice Kidd, a volunteer in the program, said of a recent meeting.

International students and volunteers pray at the commencement of a meeting.


During their weekday sessions together, students orally read books that incorporate Christian themes while ESL teachers correct any pronunciation errors. Conversations about the spiritual subject matter are encouraged, which gives international students a chance to practice their spoken English skills and learn more about Christianity.

Currently, more volunteers are needed as ESL teachers, since the large number of international students in the program requires more teachers in order to maintain smaller-sized reading groups.

“We need service learning students here at the Woodlawn International Program,” Kidd said.

Volunteers are also needed for working with the children and youth of many international students, who often visit the United States for a year or two. Many are Chinese and are graduate students and visiting professors at the University of Tennessee.

“The parents come…because they have good teachers and because their children have good teachers,” Kidd said.

Janice Kidd serves in childcare center during classes

Volunteers can come anytime classes are held and are not required to have previous experience as an ESL teacher.

The program began in 1989, and since then over 150 international people who have had contact with the program have accepted Christ as their savior and have been baptized. Since last October, four people have been baptized, one of whom is a former Muslim from Sudan.

The international program at Woodlawn provides an excellent opportunity to complete hours for Johnson University’s service learning requirement.

Kirk McClelland, Associate Professor of Service Learning and the new director of JU’s Quality Enhancement Program, is currently developing an expansion of the service learning program.

Anyone interested in Woodlawn’s International Program should contact Georgia Panya by phone at 865-609-0555, or via email at GeorgiaP@Reagan.com

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