By Nicole Nielsen

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – McShan Reading Homeroom is the program many students from Lee A. McShan Elementary school in Dallas ISD go through to learn English.

The district says about 77% of their 559 total enrollment has limited English proficiency.

“Our students come from all over the world… all over Asia and Africa,” said Dalene Buhl, chief operating officer for McShan Reading Homeroom.

Many are immigrant and refugee students, whose parents speak their native language.

The school and the program are really the only opportunities for some to practice their English.

So when the pandemic forced them to go virtual, they faced some challenges. But little did they know, it would help expand their program, internationally.

“Now that we are virtual, tutors can tutor from anywhere in the world,“ Buhl said.

They now have over 140 volunteer tutors in 13 states and three countries, teaching kids in Dallas.

They have tutors now joining them from California, New York, Brazil and even Switzerland.

“I never knew how much I would enjoy teaching this young 7 year old how to read. I could totally understand his frustration and the confusion while I was teaching him because when I came to Geneva, I didn’t speak French so I was lost with the new language,” said their Switzerland-based tutor, Alexandra Eaton.

Buhl says the language barriers that Americans face abroad make them more empathetic when trying to teach English themselves.

“They [the tutors] gravitate to our program for just that reason. They empathize, they understand more,” Buhl said.

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Nicole Nielsen