Wiregrass Whiz Kids - Mark Padilla

Moving to a new town and going to a new school is scary for most kids, but imagine what it is like to come from another country and not know the spoken language.

Mark Padilla did just that.

Mark looks like your average 4th grader, but 12 months ago he did not know a single English word.

“First day in America is like this, I put my alarm clock at 6:30 or 7 a.m. when I got up he is taking shower already and ready to go. He said ‘mama I am ready to go, I woke up at 3 a.m., I get up at 3 a.m.” explained Mark’s mother.

In January of 2013, Mark and his mom packed their bags and moved to Dothan from Culaba Lette, Philippines. His mother knew that Mark needed more, a better like with endless opportunities.

“Well the day I heard Mark was coming and I heard he spoke no English, I knew it would be difficult,” said Joy Vann, Mark’s third grade teacher.

That may be the case for a normal new kid, but Mark is the exception.

“A lot of our students are very shy because they do not know the language and they don’t want to appear dumb or say something stupid, so they don’t say anything at all,” explained Suzan Knight, Mark’s ELL teacher.

Teachers describe Mark as eager to please, eager to learn and to make new friends.

“The kids love him and he was actually voted good citizen of my classroom after he had only been here a few months,” said Vann. “They all just took him under their wing. The transformation was just unbelievable from the time he got here to where he spoke not a word of English until the end of the year when he was able to communicate with me and other teachers as well as his peers. It was like he was a totally different child.”

Mark is now immersed in American culture and the English language with dreams like any other kid. When he grows up, he wants to become a policeman. When asked why he explained, that “policeman because they are tall and I am small.”

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