MONETT, Mo. — The Monett School District is working to break the language barrier in town.

“Spanish, as well as Karen and Karenni, K’iche’, Akateko,” said Daphne Hensley, Monett School District ESL Director.

Those are just a few of the 28 different languages being spoken by the 600 students enrolled in the Monett School District’s English Language Program.

“We have quite a few, a growing number, that not only speak their heritage language as well as English but they may speak a third and fourth language as well,” said Hensley.

Instead of asking teachers to learn all 28 different languages, the district’s ESL program provides resources, like reading interventions and third-party translators, to ensure no student gets lost in translation.

“We have migrant liaisons that are our support staff that actually work directly with the families. So they are doing a lot of informational calls, any type of information that would go out from the district, they are our go-between,” said Hensley.

“It’s fun because some people think you have to go to New York for those different cultures — it’s right here in Monett, Missouri. The kids are so great to work with, there are no challenges,” said Brenda Shell, Monett Early Childhood ESL Teacher.

“We try to build their background knowledge, so things that are normal to us or things we are used to every day, aren’t the same for them so we try and give them those experiences,” said Jairo Rueda, Monett Elementary ESL Teacher.

Jairo Rueda is an ESL teacher at Monett Elementary.

He grew up in Monett — and is a former English Language Learner.

He shared what it’s like helping kids who are in the same situation, as he once was.

“I see myself as a role model for them. I know there aren’t many male educators in the district so it’s nice to have more role models as men and Hispanic also,” said Jairo Rueda, Monett Elementary ESL Teacher.

ESL directors say there are currently more than 2,000 bilingual students in the district.