Article by Ana De La Paz Martinez, English Language Development in Bethel School District
I came to the U.S. when I was six years old. There are no words to explain how hard that transition can be for a child. I understand what it is like to be a student learning English for the first time; and it can be terrifying, but rewarding. This early personal experience inspired me to pursue a career in education.
I started working at Prairie Mountain School in the Bethel School district in 2013, and I fell in love with working in the English Language Development (ELD) classroom. The students who qualify for this classroom are those whose first language is other than English and who are not yet proficient in English.
As an ELD student once myself, I love being able to connect, relate, and support these kids and their families. Also, the motivation of my family and coworkers from the district gave me the courage to continue with my education to become an ELD teacher. My team and I work hard to make sure language is never a barrier for students and parents.
Then COVID-19 hit and the schools were closed! A major challenge I have witnessed with parents, especially in regards to the education of their children, is definitely technology. Several families either don’t feel comfortable using computers, don’t know how to navigate the platforms teachers are using, and/or they don’t have access to a device or internet. Distance learning, combined with the language barrier, combined with technology, motivated us to find creative solutions.
Since all three of my educational assistants are bilingual, they were of immense help. We worked alongside the school district to translate the website, resources pages, all packets, blogs, newsletters, etc. I helped create a spreadsheet where teachers and staff could fill in a request if they needed a translator to contact a family or they needed a document translated. Translators would get a notification right away, and work on it. In addition, translators would give out their phone numbers to text or call if they had questions or concerns.
The fall school year will present new challenges of their own, of which I am truly excited and nervous! It poses many challenges, but we are working to restructure our classrooms to best fit the needs of these amazing children. Regardless, we continue to help our students to learn English; however, we always tell our students how important it is to continue to speak, read, and write in their first language. Becoming bilingual is a superpower that not everyone has, and that will open many doors for them to become successful in life.
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