The Lawrence County School District has five teachers who are earning an English as a Second Language endorsement on their teacher licensure issued by the Arkansas Department of Education.
Providing English language development and meaningful access to core content are key elements of every district’s English Learner Plan,” Supt. Terry Belcher said. “The ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Institute, through the University of Arkansas, provided our teachers the training to meet the education needs of students for whom English is a second language.”
Teachers completing the training are Amanda Henry, kindergarten teacher; Natosha Ward, first-grade teacher; Jenny Andrews, fourth-grade teacher; Stacy Rice, 10th-grade English teacher; and Jessica Light, K-4 dyslexia therapist, who also serves as English for Speakers of Other Languages coordinator for the district.
“Now more than ever, in our area of the state, we are seeing an upward trend of students whose first language is not English,” Light said. “More teachers need to be trained in the strategies and learning techniques that benefit these students.”
Light said while some can speak and understand English, the academic language and literacy skills like reading and writing are lagging behind their peers.
“With this training teachers can assist them in becoming successful students by planning appropriate instruction and giving the needed learning scaffolds,” she said.
Andrews said she feels there is a definite need for ESOL training.
“We have students who move in to our school with different levels of English fluency, and I want strategies to better serve my students and their families,” she said. “With my certification, I could serve as a coordinator for ESL to support teachers of ESL students, work more closely with these students in their classrooms along with their teacher and also serve them in small groups to give them the support they need.”
Ward agreed saying that every learner deserves the best instruction and opportunity to reach their full potential.
“The training and certification equips us with skills and resources to meet the needs of the students both in and out of the classroom,” she said. “These students want to learn and be successful. They just need strategies to help them achieve that success.”
Andrews said the training has influenced her in all aspects of her teaching.
“This training has helped me to better understand some of the language tendencies that English language learners (ELLs) use in their speaking and writing,” she said. “It has also given me some great strategies that I can use with all students, not just limited it to ELLs.”
Ward said the ESOL Institute has made her more aware of how she approaches language in the classroom.
“I have become more intentional with instruction to ensure my language learners are enriched with opportunities to read, write and speak in different settings,” she said. “It has also made me more culturally aware. Learning about students’ different cultures and native languages helps me understand why students may have a hard time grasping the English language.”
She said it has become a constant reflection and adaptation process.
“The one take away that has helped me the most is that what I have learned I can use with other students, especially those who struggle with literacy,” Ward said. “The training pairs well with the Arkansas R.I.S.E. training we have received.”
Light said the training has helped her identify what areas of language students need the most assistance in.
“If these students speak little to no English, we work on English phrases, school vocabulary and other words to assist them with daily school activities,” she said. “If they speak some English and struggle with the reading and writing parts of the language, then we work on phonics rules and features.”
She said the ultimate goal is to ensure that the students receive the assistance they need to be successful in all aspects of school life.
“In the future, I hope to see that my students feel a part of our school and can communicate academically and socially with peers and teachers,” Light said.