October 12, 2010

ELL Conference: Nothing lost in translation

Author: Sylvia Saunders
Source: NYSUT Communications
Caption: NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue (right) meets with Utica City students and ESL teacher Lynn Joseph (center) before moderating a student panel discussion. Photo by Steve Jacobs.

Educators at a NYSUT regional conference in Utica found themselves on the other side of the learning equation as they listened intently to a panel of English language learners and their parents about what works - and doesn't work - in today's schools.

There were laughs, tears and plenty of take-home lessons as the students and parents reaffirmed the importance of dedicated teachers and strong support programs to help English language learners overcome obstacles.

NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue met with Utica City students and ESL teacher Lynn Joseph before moderating the student panel discussion (pictured above). The four student panelists were Nelly Cioclea of Moldova, Hon Moo of Burma, Govinda Adhikari of Nepal and Nazik Azez of Iraq. Parent panelists were Augtin Moe, Korija Mahdi, Faiza Kafi and Jacqueline Solorzano.

The conference - "Enriching the Education of English Language Learners" - drew more than 160 practitioners from around the Utica area, which has a large ELL population. The conference is part of NYSUT's on-going commitment to supporting our members' efforts to improve learning in the classroom. It was co-sponsored by numerous education organizations and professional groups.

The break-out sessions featured an array of research-based programs and strategies that have demonstrated success in supporting ELLs' learning outcomes. Aida Kabil-Cvijanovic, an academic coach in the Utica City Schools, shared strategies to support newcomer students and help them adjust to schools in the United States. Approximately 15 percent of Utica's students are ESL students, many of them refugees from a variety of countries. Other sessions offered tips for content area teachers on how materials can be modified to help ELLs learn math vocabulary and make Global History curriculum more accessible for ELL students.