Tell Me About . . .
How an English Language Learner Made Substantial Progress
The Power of a Mentor
She arrived from the Dominican Republic in
the summer of 2012 and enrolled in middle
school without knowing a word of English.
Life was difficult for this bright girl. She felt
out of place not only because she didn’t speak
English, but also because there was no one else
at our school from her native country. A few
months later, I met a senior at our local high
school who had arrived from the same country
as a middle schooler as well. I soon connected
the two girls. The older student (no longer in
our English as a second language program)
became a mentor and enriched the younger
girl’s school experience, boosting her confidence exponentially. Today this sophomore
ELL is a thriving honor student. Connecting
her with a fellow Dominican student paved the
way to increased English proficiency and high
academic achievement. After all, teaching is
more about relationships than about
—Anabel Gonzalez, secondary ESL teacher,
Mooresville Graded School District,
Mooresville, North Carolina
From Quiet to Confident
When David, an ELL with disabilities, started
in the 8th grade inclusion classroom in our
Big Picture school, he was just transitioning
out of a more restrictive 12: 1 setting. He was
very quiet and reserved. He barely spoke, and
when he did, he struggled with a lisp. In the
past three years, David has emerged from his
shell partly due to the school’s expectation that
he present his learning quarterly to his peers
and family. In a recent presentation, David
spoke in a deep, dramatic voice as he explained
the mayhem that Jack the Ripper caused and
lessons to learn from these historic events.
David was bold and confident. He had the
whole audience on the edge of their seats.
I also credit our wonderful group of Big
Picture students. They exude the notion of
family and acceptance that allowed David to feel
that he belonged.
—LaRissa Kuszajewski, teacher/advisor,
P.S. 89X, Bronx, New York
A Personal Recipe for Achievement
Brenda, one of my ELLs, has grown so much in
the three years I have worked with her. She has
gone from reading 4 words per minute on 2nd
grade stories to 109 words on 4th grade texts.
Her passion and winning attitude have made her
a delight to teach.
I have found personalized learning and
personal trackers to be particularly helpful.
Using these strategies, Brenda moved through
standards at her own pace—with verbal and
auditory resources to enhance her retention.
She has excelled in this process. Additionally,
I have looped with my class from 2nd to 3rd to
4th grade. This consistency and the culture it
developed has given her greater opportunities to
—Jason Kraeger, teacher,
Pinehurst Elementary School,
North Charleston, South Carolina
Coming Full Circle
When R. H. entered my freshman class, her
English skills were low, but she was determined
to succeed. I encouraged her to watch TV news,
sitcoms, and sports to improve her vocabulary,
comprehension, and pronunciation. I helped her
choose appropriate reading materials. It takes an
average of five years to become fluent in English;
she did it in four years.
She majored in biology at Cal Poly Pomona
in California and went through their teacher
credentialing program. After college, she taught
middle school science and later became a language enrichment teacher. She has come full
circle and now mentors second-language students. How did I help her succeed? By always
being there for her as her teacher, mentor,