Ventura’s Classroom on Wheels Lets Adult Students Feel at Home : Education: School uses 32-foot-long trailer to bring courses in English and computers to those who lack transportation.


Pulling a red-and-white checked apron from a closet, teacher Karen Greenslate told her four students she wanted to practice pronouncing a word that often trips up people learning English: “Isn’t.”

“Excuse me,” Greenslate said, acting out a dialogue from the group’s English textbook. “That’s my apron.”

“No,” Socorro Tovar said as she clutched the apron Greenslate still held tightly. “It isn’t.”


“Yes,” Greenslate said, pulling the apron away from Tovar. “It is.”

Then the five women, who were crowded around a small linoleum-topped table, chuckled at their own antics.

If the atmosphere around this table seems more like a cozy chat among friends than a formal class in English, it’s meant to.

Greenslate, an instructor for the Ventura Adult School, teaches her classes in a 32-foot-long mobile home the adult school has remodeled into a small classroom.

Near the front of the trailer is a small, built-in table where students gather for English classes and other group work. At the back, the district has ripped out the trailer’s beds and installed shiny new countertops and chairs that serve as desks.

Although other adult schools around the state operate such mobile learning centers, the Ventura Unified School District is the first in Ventura County to offer drive-up service.

Since the district launched the program this fall, Greenslate and teacher’s aide Sandy Serrano have been taking their mobile classroom to three Ventura Unified School District elementary schools--Sheridan Way, Montalvo and Saticoy.



Parking in front of the schools, the educators open the trailer door to any adult who wants to master English, learn the basics of computers or work toward a high school degree.

“One of the ideas in adult education is to bring education to the learner,” Ventura Adult School administrator Virginia Donnellan said. “We were trying to break down some of the barriers of why adult learners are not coming to our established campuses, and one of them is transportation. Some of them just don’t have transportation.”

Although the adult school already offers free courses in English, computer basics and other subjects at numerous sites around the Ventura district, many adults are without cars to drive to the classes, Donnellan said.

And some women lack access to the family car during class hours because their husbands drive to work.

Other students, also mainly women, may be unable to leave their families alone during the evenings when many of the adult school’s regular classes are offered.

For such parents, attending classes during the same hours their children are in school and even at the same place is both convenient and reassuring.


“They’re real comfortable with the idea that their kids are right there in the building,” Greenslate said.

Partly because of the mobile classroom’s convenient schedule and locations, nearly all of the 60 adults who have signed up so far for classes are women, Greenslate said.

But the traveling classroom offers another advantage that may appeal particularly to women: It’s homey.

A number of people taking courses at the mobile classroom have been out of school for 10 or 15 years, adult school officials said. For such returning students, a formal classroom can feel intimidating.

“It’s a small learning environment,” Donnellan said. “It’s comfortable. . . . I think the students themselves feel they can support each other in a smaller learning environment, whereas they might not feel they can support each other in a classroom of 30 students.”

Not only are students able to support one another, they get more individual attention from instructors.



With the trailer able to hold only seven students at a time, Greenslate may hold an English lesson with four people at one end of the trailer while Serrano teaches three others how to operate laptop computers.

The one exception to these tiny classes is at Sheridan Way, where so many parents have signed up for English courses that Greenslate gives the lessons in a room at the school.

The popularity of the mobile learning center comes as no surprise to Cecilia Mendez.

A 26-year-old mother of five youngsters who all attend Montalvo, Mendez said she heard about the traveling classroom from one of her children’s teachers.

Employed by a firm that inventories goods at department stores, Mendez said she is eager to learn basic computer skills that will help her at work. “I want to know more so I don’t have to go in there so confused all the time.”

But she is too busy to attend the regularly scheduled adult school classes.

The best part of the mobile classroom, Mendez said, is it serves as a traveling advertisement to parents who may feel trapped in their present jobs or unable to find work.

“A lot of parents don’t know they can go to Ventura Adult School,” she said. “They think they don’t have any other options. It helps them to realize they have other options.”