ELK GROVE, CA - Most English classes are full at Elk Grove High School, but one of them has only a handful of students.
"These are my CAHSEE kids. They're such a sweet group, but they're scared," said English instructor Ellie Kuechler-VanAker.
They're scared because they haven't passed CAHSEE -- the California High School exit exam, a graduation requirement.
Kuechler-VanAker explained that most of her students are learning English or are dealing with some other difficulties but she doesn't mind taking them on. "It's drill, drill, drill, practice, practice, practice. And the longer they work, the better they get." she said. "I have them talking, writing, speaking and reading English in no time."
She gives students several practice tests and is very proud of the rate of students who pass the test after taking her class. "One hundred percent. Nothing less will do," Kuechler-VanAker said. "Maybe one student every three years doesn't pass, but 100 percent is the goal and that's usually what we achieve."
Twenty-two years ago Kuechler-VanAker moved to Sacramento and into a job at News10.
She also got a taste of teaching students, "I taught those kids (in the Sacramento County Office of Education program) how to use TV equipment and I found that I really enjoyed working with teenagers."
After almost 22 years at the head of the class, Kuechler-VanAker used her TV experience to start a school radio station.
Students read announcements about upcoming benefits, play music and talk politics.
Kevin Moan is the co-host of a political opinion show. "She gives kids a voice," he said. "A lot of kids don't have that voice, but I have a voice because of her."
Kuechler-VanAker says she feeds off the students who keep her energized. "I don't see retiring anytime soon because I still love it."
by Karen Massie, firstname.lastname@example.org