ENL Team Works To Boost Student Success
Ask any teacher or school staff member what the most gratifying part of their job is and, chances are, they’d proudly tell you the story of seeing their students grow through education.
But, for teachers and staff who have the chance to work with English language learners, that growth comes with seeing an entirely new world through the eyes of a child.
At S.G. Love Elementary School, approximately 15% of the student population, from universal pre-kindergarten to fourth grade, is classified as an English language learner. For members of the school’s ENL team, the opportunity to work with these students can be life changing.
“I am so proud of the great work that our ENL team does here at Love School each day,” said Cindy Johnson, Love School Principal. “Our ENL teachers work tirelessly to support and teach our ENL scholars. I am so appreciative of each faculty and staff member who go above and beyond to ensure that our ENL scholars are educated in a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
The ENL program across Jamestown Public Schools aims to help make content and curriculum accessible to learners as well as help them acquire the English language through four modalities: listening, speaking, reading, and writing, said Tamu Reinhardt, coordinator of family and community engagement and equity.
“Across the district, we provide a co-teaching platform where a classroom teacher and ENL teacher will work together to make content accessible,” Reinhardt said. “ENL teachers work to support students during a lesson to help increase comprehension and understanding.”
Tracey Eliason, a fourth grade teacher at Love, has worked with ENL students for 25 years both in New York City and in Jamestown, and noted that her role in supporting her ENL students is multifaceted.
“My primary goal is to help them acquire English for real life and to help students learn academic English for school life,” she said. “It is necessary to help them to accumulate and acculturate to the social cues, norms and mores of American life, while maintaining their individual cultural practices and having our students learn about and appreciate other cultural practices.”
Kiersten Hansen and Elizabeth Kindermann, ENL teachers, provide ancillary support to students in classrooms like Eliason’s and also pull students for small group instruction.
“Throughout the day, I go into classrooms to work with the classroom teacher on giving students extra help,” Kindermann said. “I also pull students out of their classrooms to work with them in small groups on their individual needs.”
“We work on integrating explicit English language instruction with a reading curriculum that focuses on fundamental literacy skills,” she said.
Throughout the building, Johnson noted, other supports are made to English language learners.
“Classroom teachers adjust their lessons and daily routines and create visual lunch menus; special area teachers create new and meaningful lessons that incorporate ENL scholars’ cultures, bilingual paraprofessionals and front office staff are on hand to help with translation, so Spanish speaking families are greeted by a smiling face who will offer assistance,” she said.
Kenia L. Marrero Robledo is a bilingual, ENL paraprofessional.
“On a typical day, I translate for children who do not understand English well and I make sure that the communication in the classroom is effective” she said. “What I have enjoyed the most is coming to the classroom and listening to many of the children speaking their native language and the most gratifying thing is seeing them learn a new language and make it their own.”
Patience throughout the process is a virtue, she noted.
“You have to be patient, consistent and understanding to be able to help children learn a new language, since for some of them it is not so easy,” Marrero Robledo said.
But beyond the barriers, the strides made are incredible to witness, Kindermann said, with many teachers seeing the fastest growth in literacy and math coming from ENL students.
“The most fulfilling part of my job is seeing the amount of growth a young student can make in the course of the year,” she explained, specifically noting this trend in younger eNL students. “They have a great ability to pick up language both in the classroom and from their peers. Some students enter school in September knowing no English and with limited literacy skills, but then end the year speaking in English and beginning to read.”
“I have learned so much working with ENL families,” Eliason said. “The value that they place on education is amazing. The respect they have for teachers is so evident in all communications I have had with families.”
Historically at Love, a large population of ENL students have been Spanish speaking. But with the recent arrival of refugees from Africa, staff have had the chance to learn all about a new culture and even witness students rally around them.
“Recently, a boy from the Congo who arrived last April only speaking Swahili, is now able to speak in long phrases and complete sentences,” Eliason said. “Thanks to the Summer LEAP Program and the warm-hearted students at Love, he would not have made it this far.”
“It’s so wonderful to be a part of the process, helping these families find a light, in what can be a very a troubling place,” Hansen said. “Coming to a new country in search of a better life has many challenges and I am so fortunate and grateful to be a help in the process!”
“Our ENL students and their families are strong, brave and resilient,” Johnson said. “They have taught me how much they value our educational system and they demonstrate each day their great respect for our faculty, staff and school and express their gratitude. When I think about the sacrifices that families have made, to leave their home and start a new life here in Jamestown, it inspires me to ensure that each ENL student receives the very best education and to create a school community that is supportive and inclusive.”
She concluded, “I cannot wait to see how our ENL students continue to impact our community, our nation and our world!”