Posted: December 18, 2017
JOY and HOPE are intimately connected and are powerful gifts we can give our students, perhaps the most powerful! One of the very best parts of being involved in public education is the JOY and HOPE students give us each and every day! The past few years we’ve featured stories that highlight the HOPE and JOY in our district. Let me know if you have any story suggestions. Thanks for helping us share the HOPE & JOY each week!
More than 200 students representing 31 different languages and cultures receive ELL services in the Camas School District. We are fortunate to have amazing staff that help support our students in the classroom. Today’s HOPE JOY comes from guest author Jo Candelore who highlights this wonderful work! Have a fantastic week everyone!
Janet Weinberg, ELL instructor extraordinaire at Helen Baller Elementary, has been instrumental in the success of English Language Learners. Janet collaborates with classroom teachers and provides instruction in both push-in and small-group settings. She has dedicated time and energy to establishing a before-school program, the “Imagine Learning Club,” which typically engages upwards of 21 students. Students meet before school to learn vocabulary and literacy skills through the use of this digital research-based, standard-aligned program.
Janet shared the story of Russian-speaking 6-year-old twin brothers, Max and Michael. The boys arrived at Helen Baller in September speaking Russian and knowing only English letters and sounds. Interestingly, they had memorized the rules of English. They were able to fluently decode and read books in the classroom, but had no understanding of vocabulary to know the meaning of what they were reading. Janet and their classroom teacher, Madeline Frost, recognized immediately that the students did not have an understanding of basic words, such as “pencil,” “window,” or “shelf.” They made a plan, placed labels on every item in the classroom, and began intensive work with the boys.
Amazingly, it is only mid-December and both boys are thriving socially and reading and comprehending grade-level text! In September, during classroom meetings, one brother would cry and nervously say, “I have no words!” He recently confidently ran up to his teacher and announced, “I’m in the green zone. I’m happy I have small tree. Mom and dad have big tree!”
Though her instructional responsibilities are many, Janet defines her most important responsibility as establishing relationships and connections with these learners and their families. I recently spoke to Janet and felt the passion and compassion she holds in her heart for our culturally diverse population as she related a story about one of our 3rd grade students of Korean descent. “He came to school and said he was worried that no one would want to be friends with him due to situations in the political arena. How unfair, but very real, for a young boy to have this on his mind when he is sitting in his 3rd grade classroom doing 3rd grade things! Our job is to be aware of the social context and the news impacting our students every day. We need to put our energy into sending the message that they are important and we care about them. We are paying attention, we want them here, and we see them as part of our community. Being bilingual? That is a great asset and we need to let them know we recognize it and celebrate it!”
How fortunate we are to have the Janet Weinbergs of the world walking among us, working behind the scenes to spread the message of hope and joy while supporting and empowering our culturally diverse students and families!