Local News

September 6, 2008

Murray Adult Learning Center churning out GED grads

Approximately 85 students earned their General Educational Development (GED) credentials through the Murray County Adult Learning Center last year, and the instruction is continuing in a classroom inside Old Eton Elementary School.

“We’re having the busiest quarter we’ve ever had,” said veteran adult literacy instructor Joe Jackson. “I’ve got around 50 GED preparation students, counting morning and evening classes, and anywhere from 10 to 15 English as a Second Language (ESL) students. Many of the ESL students work in the mills, and with their schedules they’ll be in (class) one week and then miss the next. But we have good retention in both programs, and I’m proud of that.”

Jackson is in his 10th year of directing the center, which operates under the auspices of Dalton State College. The Murray County Board of Education supplies the space, which is a modern day “one-room classroom,” says Jackson, who is the self-professed instructor, part-time janitor and counselor.

“You wear many hats doing this,” Jackson said of his one-man office. When he started, his only experience was a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Georgia.

“The best training I’ve had is dealing with different kinds of people,” he said. “I love teaching both classes. I didn’t think I would like the ESL, because I didn’t know what to do at first. So we just started with the ABCs — literally. We try to make the classes easy to understand and fun.”

ESL students are primarily Hispanic, but Jackson has also had Chinese participants. ESL classes meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for three hours.

GED classes take place on Monday and Wednesday mornings for four-and-a-half hours, and Tuesday and Thursday evenings for three hours for those who have day jobs. Upon entering the program, GED students take an assessment test in three areas — reading, math and language arts — to determine the level they need to begin studying. They are also assessed midway through their studies and again at the end of the quarter to determine whether they are ready to take the GED test.

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