August 2013 Featured Educator: Christel Broady

What do you do in your job?

I plan and teach all courses for the ESL teacher training for Georgetown College. Additionally, I function as a resource to faculty members on WIDA and ESL issues, so these elements can be infused in all methods courses for initial and advanced teacher candidates. Also, I am a consultant to the Center for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy at Georgetown College. In this role, I train regional mainstream teachers and administrators in culturally responsive instruction, as well as all things ESL and WIDA to build capacity for ESL instruction. So my work has many facets and is never dull because it takes me into schools.

Where does your passion for ESL education stem from?

I grew up in Germany, where we were required to take English, and in middle school I had an English teacher who was very ineffective. I was scared to death of her, to the point where I failed English and had to repeat the class. That teacher told me I would never be able to master English in my life. But I just couldn't imagine that it was impossible for me to learn another language. Eventually, I studied teaching German as a foreign language for Turkish students living in Germany. I then came to the U.S. to get a master's degree, where I learned firsthand what it means to have to perform in a new country and language. But that experience in middle school still frames my approach to learning languages and cultures today.

Do you have direct experience working with ELLs? What techniques/strategies have you found to be most effective in teaching ELLs?

Techniques and strategies that work for me and which I promote are based on the belief that all English learners bring special gifts and skills to the classroom and that schools should spend time in getting to know the gifts. Instruction and assessment should be linked to what English learners bring to the classroom. All instruction must help children to achieve academically. All lessons should include language objectives with language functions. Words and concepts need to be presented in many different ways by visuals and other cues.

Learners and teachers need to have access to technology, and families need to be included in the school activities. Parents should be actively included in the school activities so they feel that schooling is a joint endeavor between home and class. School cultures all need to be visible at school.  Kids must receive all tools to be able to participate in schooling. They can only pull themselves up by the bootstraps if they have boots.

How do you encourage ELLs to learn? How do you accelerate their language development and ensure their equitable access to content learning?

First, it is important to connect with ELLs and their families. Then, schools must have a clearly articulated ESL plan that is shared by all staff and reviewed regularly. All school personnel need to see themselves as part of this plan. All teachers need to see themselves as language teachers! Instructional decisions need to be based on data, cultural knowledge, and culturally responsive teaching strategies. ESL data needs to be part of the overall school “business.” Administrators need to set the tone to make all of this happen.

Furthermore, ELLs need to receive equitable learning conditions and assessments in order to acquire content. Cognitively, they are on the same level, they just need language and background knowledge. It is my dream that all schools and districts celebrate different languages and maybe begin to issue certificates to multilingual speakers at the end of the school year to recognize this trait as a valuable skill. Further, I wish that school districts would mark bilingual and multilingual students with special notations of achievement on their graduation certificate.

What recommendations do you have regarding assessment of ELL students’ language learning? How do you use the results of formative and/or summative testing?

I believe that every teacher who has contact with ELLs needs to have access to the initial screening test and subsequent ACCESS for ELLs test results (although we need to raise awareness about not looking at the composite score as the one and only data point). We need to regularly review ELLs’ language growth by using data. There need to be programmatic measuring points in place that inform the school community on the progress.

Teachers need to use the WIDA Can Do Descriptors to conduct backward lesson planning built on what learners at different proficiency levels can do when interacting with the content. The Can Do Descriptors also will guide mainstream teachers to consider all four domains of language learning. With that in mind, teachers can define workable language objectives. They can establish summative assessments and use activities as ongoing formative assessment to garner insight in the progress.

What benefits or strengths do English language learners bring to Kentucky’s classrooms?

Every child is a gift to the world and ELLs specifically bring the gift of multiple perspectives to classrooms. This is a crucial trait in the 21st century global community and economy. By maintaining their linguistic and cultural skills, ELLs can be mentors to others in the global workplace and be ambassadors for their states and country, considering that most English learner children were born U.S. citizens. Many of them can draw on their cultural heritage to teach others how to be more team-oriented and work for the common good of any organization. These skills are so important for work readiness.

What has been your involvement in TESOL?

I started working with Kentucky TESOL soon after I arrived in the state and ultimately ended up becoming the organization’s president. I’ve worked to fill more of the organization’s board position with K-12 teachers instead of higher education professors. All too often, teachers don’t look at themselves as leaders, but once we get them on the board, they’re natural leaders and advocates.

Recently, through my involvement in TESOL, I participated as an Advocacy Day representative for Kentucky, and traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby on Capitol Hill for immigrant issues. The staff of the Senators and Congressmen we met had no idea what the ESL situation was like in Kentucky, that most of our ESL students were actually born in the U.S. It hit home for a lot of them that a lot of these kids are going to grow up to be voters. This was a particularly powerful experience for me because I had just gained my American citizenship, so it made me feel very special to be able to represent my state not only as an advocate for ESL, but as a new citizen as well.

At TESOL International, I served in many capacities, including chair of the worldwide section of Elementary Education, steering board member, and nomination committee chair. In this service, it was useful to capitalize on my experience in EFL as well as ESL to serve all constituency of TESOL in the U.S. and abroad in many countries.

Last, I have been serving as reviewer for new teacher training programs in the U.S. when they seek approval from the state of Kentucky and national NCAE accreditation.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?

In the ESL Endorsement, I work exclusively with in-service teachers, so I am connected to schools across the state. Since the program goal is to train ESL leaders, not just ESL teachers, we do real-life leadership projects in ESL. The reason is that the teachers who graduate from the program face enormous professional challenges. All of a sudden they’re supposed to be the point person for everyone from the front office to the lunch lady!

At school, everyone wants the ESL teachers to guide them through every school-related interaction regarding ESL students. Reality forces them to take on the mantle of leadership immediately. Therefore, every class I teach has a leadership component, so that when teachers are done with the training, they can step up to the plate and advocate from day one for the ESLs in their schools as well as for the mainstream teachers.

How has WIDA helped you achieve your goals as an educator?

Since WIDA pulls together assessment, instruction, and language, we finally have a tool that helps everyone in school find common vocabulary and work towards the same goal in measurable ways. I’m so happy WIDA exists because it has helped K-12 educators and me do our jobs better in so many ways!

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